The family of a driver killed in a collision with a speeding Minneapolis police car in 2021 sued the city Thursday, pointing out that its officers have a long history of causing deadly crashes and that it knew but never disciplined the officer involved for his penchant for reckless pursuits.

The federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on behalf of the sister and other relatives of 40-year-old Leneal Frazier.

Frazier's SUV was hit at the intersection of N. Lyndale and 41st avenues by a car driven by officer Brian Cummings as he sped through a red light in pursuit of a carjacking suspect on July 6, 2021.

The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages for the family and an injunction to ensure that the city's police officers no longer engage in similar pursuits.

A spokesman told the Star Tribune that the city had no immediate comment.

Cummings, a 14-year veteran with the Minneapolis Police Department, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in Hennepin County District Court in April 2023. He was sentenced to a nine-month term combining time in the workhouse and on electronic home monitoring.

Many of the contentions in the suit are directed at the history of police pursuits in Minneapolis and how they have often led to deadly crashes. It also argues that Black drivers are disproportionately subjected to pursuits.

Cummings began the chase after spotting a Kia Sportage with no license plate near W. Broadway and N. Lyndale Avenue that matched the description of a vehicle that was carjacked three days earlier. The Kia's driver, James J. Jones-Drain, fled the scene of the crash but was later arrested and charged with fleeing police and auto theft.

"In at least 15 fatalities caused by an MPD pursuit, 13 of the drivers were Black," including Frazier, the suit says. "These pursuits are also more likely to be initiated in and continued through neighborhoods with a disproportionately high number of Black residents compared to other Minneapolis neighborhoods with predominantly white residents."

The suit also says Minneapolis police pursuits have ended in crashes roughly 24% of the time since 2021, a far higher proportion than for any other police department in Minnesota, according to state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) knew that the practice of its officers, and Cummings in particular, "engaging in dangerous high-speed pursuits had the natural and probable consequence of causing significant injury and/or death of MPD officers," the suit continues.

"Despite the proven danger of MPD's proclivity for unnecessary, high-speed pursuits, MPD Chief Brian O'Hara announced in 2023 that he was planning on relaxing the MPD's pursuit policy."

O'Hara did just that 14 months ago when he allowed officers to chase suspects involved in certain firearm-related offenses, a change he said was needed to counter a rise in gun violence.

Cummings was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but it included numerous allegations against him — from the night of the crash and during his career with the Minneapolis police force:

  • Cummings was involved in at least 12 high-speed pursuits in 2021, including the one that killed Frazier, and he knew the driver was Black in nine of those chases. His 12 pursuits accounted for 10% of all chases by Minneapolis officers. Cummings was never disciplined for his sometimes dangerous chases.
  • Even though the 3-mile pursuit he initiated before the deadly crash was not deemed an emergency, Cummings ran eight stop signs and lied to his sergeant by reporting he was going 40 mph but actually was traveling more than 80 mph. At one point, he topped 100 mph.
  • He had run a red light at 89 mph when he broadsided Frazier's SUV.
  • Cummings' statements at the crash scene showed no concern for Frazier. "[Expletive], I just got this car back," the suit contends he said. Cummings approached a dying Frazier still pinned in the wreckage, said nothing to the driver and walked away.

Neither Cummings nor his attorney was available for comment.

Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the young woman whose cellphone video of George Floyd's death in May 2020 helped convict fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder.