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Family of Minnesota man killed by police criticize local officials and seek federal intervention

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nyra Fields-Miller was making breakfast for her family last weekend when the county attorney’s office called with an urgent request to speak with her in person. Hours later, officials told her that prosecutors were dismissing murder and manslaughter charges against the Minnesota state trooper who shot and killed her son last summer.

On Tuesday, a day after Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty defended her initial decision to charge the trooper who killed Ricky Cobb II and to later drop the charges, Cobb’s family said officials had failed them and once again not held law enforcement accountable.

“Black folks in this country oftentimes do not get to feel what justice looks like,” said Bakari Sellers, an attorney for the family. “And so when we go down this path, and we’re given a semblance of hope that this will be just, we gravitate towards that, only to be let down again.”

Sellers and Cobb’s family criticized Moriarty and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz — who sparred publicly with the prosecutor over the case. They also said the family plans to ask the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate the shooting.

Cobb, a 33-year-old Black man, died after Trooper Ryan Londregan, who is white, shot him as he tried to pull away from a traffic stop. Troopers pulled Cobb over on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis on July 31 because the lights were out on his car. They then found that the Spring Lake Park man was wanted for violating a domestic no-contact order in neighboring Ramsey County. Londregan shot Cobb twice as Cobb tried to drive away after troopers ordered him to get out of his car.

The shooting added to the political turmoil surrounding law enforcement in a city still reeling from the police murder of George Floyd four years ago. Voters elected Moriarty, a former chief public defender for the county, in 2022 on a police reform platform.

On Monday, Walz told reporters he would have used his power to take the case from Moriarty and hand it to the state attorney general’s office if she had not dropped the charges. She accused Walz of interfering with the case — a claim he denied.

Moriarty said a newly raised defense claim that Londregan believed Cobb was reaching for Londregan’s gun, along with new statements from State Patrol officials backing claims that the trooper was following his training, made the case impossible to prove. On Tuesday, Sellers said body camera video of the episode should have revealed to prosecutors long ago what Londregan might claim in defense.

Cobb’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in April, alleging that the stop and the shooting were unjustified. That lawsuit is ongoing.

Holding officers accountable is still a tall order, even in the county where Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s 2020 murder, said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

“Even after becoming the epicenter of an international movement against police violence, our community still cannot get justice against cops who engage in excessive force, including deadly force,” Gross said. “Once again, because it’s a cop and there’s politics about this, families can not have their shot at justice.”

Londregan, who was free on his own recognizance, remains on paid leave while the State Patrol reviews the shooting. His attorney, Chris Madel, said the trooper acted heroically and plans to return to law enforcement.

Standing before reporters Tuesday, Cobb’s family and supporters said he should still be alive.

“My son was an excellent son to me. He was fully grown, and he had aspirations. He was a father, and he was a human being, a working human being,” Fields-Miller said. “Make it make sense.”

By MICHAEL GOLDBERG
Associated Press

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