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Minnesota prosecutor saw conviction unlikely in trooper’s killing of Black man

In World
June 03, 2024

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A Minnesota prosecutor said on Monday she dropped charges against a state trooper in the shooting death of a Black motorist last summer after learning the officer would testify that he acted in self-defense, making a conviction unlikely.

In explaining her decision, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty cited a statement by an attorney for the trooper, Ryan Londregan, at an April hearing at Hennepin District Court in Minneapolis.

The lawyer told the court his client had planned to tell a jury he had shot Ricky Cobb II during a traffic stop because he thought Cobb reached for his service pistol, putting a fellow officer in imminent danger, Moriarty said.

“Expert witnesses in use-of-force cases focus pretty much only on the seconds when the shots happened and what a reasonable officer could have perceived,” she said during a news conference, noting that body-camera video was inconclusive to backing up his claim.

“We do not believe we would have even made it to a jury,” she added at a media briefing.

On Sunday, Moriarty’s office said in a statement that the filing of a notice of dismissal of unintentional murder and manslaughter charges against Londregan was not the same as an exoneration.

On July 31, 2023, Londregan and other troopers stopped Cobb, 33, in Minneapolis. The officers told Cobb that he was wanted for an offense in another county and that they planned to arrest him, according to the complaint filed against Londregan.

Londregan shot Cobb twice after the motorist put the car in gear and took his foot off the brake as another trooper reached inside the vehicle, trying to unbuckle his seatbelt, the complaint said.

Moriarty said prosecutors would have needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that use of deadly force was not justified.

“Ricky Cobb should be alive today,” Moriarty said. “Makes our inability to move forward even more difficult for Mr. Cobb’s family and for our community.”

Cobb’s killing took place in the same city where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in 2020. The killing set off a weeks-long spate of racial justice protests around the world, casting a spotlight on police killings of Black people across the U.S. and elsewhere.

Less than a year later, in another traffic stop that turned fatal for a Black man in the Minneapolis area, former police officer Kimberly Potter killed motorist Daunte Wright. Potter was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Rod Nickel)

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