MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota state trooper was charged with murder Wednesday in the shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II, who failed to get out of his car during a July traffic stop and took his foot off the brake when officers tried to arrest him.
In announcing charges of second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said Trooper Ryan Londregan’s use of deadly force against Cobb, a 33-year-old Black man, was not justified.
“As with all Minnesota law enforcement officers, state troopers may only use deadly force when it is necessary to protect a person from a specific identified threat of great bodily harm or death that was reasonably likely to occur. That did not exist in this case,” Moriarty said.
Londregan’s attorney Chris Madel called his client “a hero,” saying Londregan, 27, was trying to protect himself and a fellow trooper. Madel filed papers seeking to have the case dismissed or at least to have Moriarty removed from the case.
“This county attorney is literally out of control. Open season on law enforcement must end. And it’s going to end with this case,” Madel said in a video statement.
Londregan has not been arrested. Moriarty said her office will not seek to hold him on bail but will ask the court to require him to surrender his passport and firearms. She expected his first court appearance to be scheduled for later this week or early next week.
The July 31 shooting occurred in Minneapolis, where the murder of George Floyd by police nearly four years ago spurred sometimes violent protests and a nationwide reckoning on racial justice. In that case, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years for second-degree murder.
The shooting has some similarities to the 2022 death of motorist Daunte Wright, who was trying to drive away from a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center when Officer Kim Potter shot him. Potter said she meant to use her Taser but accidentally grabbed her gun. She served about 16 months of a two-year sentence for second-degree manslaughter.
Londregan shot Cobb after two other troopers pulled him over on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis when he saw the lights were out on the Ford Fusion that Cobb was driving, according to the criminal complaint.
One of the troopers, Brett Seide, checked Cobb’s record and found he was wanted for violating an order for protection in neighboring Ramsey County. There was no outstanding arrest warrant, however, so the troopers checked with Ramsey County officials to find out if they wanted Cobb taken into custody, the complaint said.
Ramsey County asked that he be arrested. By then, Londregan had arrived.
Seide approached the driver’s side of Cobb’s car while Londregan went to the passenger door, according to the complaint.
The troopers asked Cobb to get out of the car, whose doors were locked and front windows down. Seide told Cobb he was under arrest while Londregan reached inside, unlocked the doors and began opening the passenger door. The complaint said Cobb then shifted the car into drive and took his foot off the brake.
According to the complaint, Cobb’s car began to slowly move forward. Londregan reached for his gun. Cobb stopped the car. The trooper pointed his gun at Cobb and yelled, “Get out of the car now!” Cobb took his foot off the brake again. Within less than a second, Londregan fired his handgun twice at Cobb, striking him both times in the chest, the complaint said.
The car accelerated forward while Seide’s torso was still inside. Seide and Londregan tried to keep up with the car for several feet before falling. The car collided with a concrete median about a quarter mile (400 meters) away.
The troopers caught up, pulled Cobb out and attempted lifesaving measures. Cobb was pronounced dead at the scene.
The defense filing quotes written statements to investigators by Seide and Trooper Garrett Erickson that they believed lethal force was necessary.
“At that time, I knew that Trooper Londregan and I were in danger of being run over by Cobb’s car, being hit by an oncoming car on the highway, or otherwise being dragged away at a high rate of speed,” Seide said.
According to the complaint, State Patrol policy states that troopers shall not fire at a moving vehicle except when deadly force is authorized, and that troopers should not put themselves in a position that increases the risk that a vehicle that they’re approaching can be used as a deadly weapon.
The chief of the State Patrol, Col. Matt Langer, said in a statement that Londergan will remain on paid leave during an ongoing internal affairs investigation.
“This is a sad situation for everyone involved,” Langer said. “We acknowledge the deep loss felt by Mr. Cobb’s family and friends. We also recognize the gravity of this situation for the State Patrol and our troopers tasked with making difficult split-second decisions.”
Cobb’s family and racial justice groups demanded in August that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz fire all three troopers. His mother, Nyra Fields-Miller, and the family’s attorneys said the charges put law enforcement on notice that those who disregard the law will be held accountable.
“Ryan Londregan stole my son from me,” Fields-Miller said in a statement. “He gunned Ricky down my son for no reason while he was defenseless. Nothing can ever make up for that. But today’s decision is the first step toward closure and justice.”
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association accused Moriarty of making a political decision to charge Londregan, noting that she ran on a platform that was critical of policing, and said law enforcement officers elsewhere have been dragged to death during lawful traffic stops.
“The resounding message that I get from rank and file all around the state is that there is a fear, a significant fear, especially in the last three years — and this has really solidified and provided an exclamation point — that you can go to prison just for doing your job,” Imran Ali, the association’s general counsel, said in an interview.