Charges Dropped Against Minnesota State Trooper Who Shot Black Motorist

Renée Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Renée Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A top prosecutor gave notice Monday that her office would drop the criminal charges against a Minnesota state trooper who fatally shot a Black motorist during a traffic stop in Minneapolis last year, saying she did not believe it would be possible to convict the officer at trial.

Trooper Ryan Londregan, 27, was charged in January with second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Ricky Cobb II the previous summer. Londregan pleaded not guilty.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty explained in an open letter to the community that Londregan’s lawyers had recently revealed “for the very first time” that the trooper was preparing to testify that he feared for his partner’s life that night, believing that Cobb was reaching for his gun.

Moriarty said that prosecutors and a law enforcement expert had reviewed video evidence of the traffic stop and determined it neither proved nor disproved this claim, which prosecutors would have to debunk beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

“We could theoretically prosecute this and just let the jury decide,” she said at a Monday press conference. “However, we ethically can’t do that because we don’t believe at this point that we can disprove that affirmative defense.”

Londregan’s lawyers also produced a declaration from his police trainer stating that he’d never instructed Londregan to refrain from pulling people out of a moving car, “which is what set these events in motion,” according to Moriarty.

Londregan, a white officer with less than two years on the job, killed Cobb on July 31 after the motorist was pulled over for driving without working tail lights, authorities previously said. During the stop, troopers including Londregan determined that Cobb was wanted in a neighboring county for suspected violation of a protective order involving a former romantic partner.

Refusing to exit his vehicle, Cobb was fatally shot amid a physical altercation that escalated as Londregan and another officer attempted to force their way into his car and grab him. After being struck in the torso by the bullets, Cobb was able to drive about a quarter of a mile away before his car came to a stop on the highway. He died there, authorities said.

“Make no mistake, Ricky Cobb was the victim in this case. Ricky Cobb should be alive today,” Moriarty said on Monday.

A former public defender, Moriarty was swept into office in 2022 on the promise that she would work hard to hold law enforcement officers to account for misconduct and brutality. She called the decision to drop the charges against Londregan “one of the hardest” she has ever had to make.

She explained that her team had met with Cobb’s relatives before publicly announcing the move. In a statement, the family said they were “disappointed” but unsurprised. (A federal lawsuit they filed in April against Londregan and another trooper involved in the incident remains ongoing.)

“Apparently, all you have to do to get away with murder is to bully the prosecutors enough and the charges will just go away,” the statement read. “The people don’t believe the excuses and neither do we.” One attorney for the family told the Star Tribune that there had been “a unique display of cowardice” by prosecutors.

Moriarty denied at the press conference that it was “a situation of us backing down.”

At a rally outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday afternoon, Cobb’s mother said she had been “wrecked” by the announcement. “They need to take accountability and stand,” she added, according to CBS Minnesota.

Londregan’s lawyers, on the other hand, celebrated the charges being dropped. “It’s about goddamn time,” his attorney said to the Star Tribune. “That’s going to be about my only on-the-record comment.”

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