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Why Minnesota state trooper's trial in fatal shooting won't be like the others

Andy Mannix and Kim Hyatt, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS — The case against state trooper Ryan Londregan may look on paper like a redux of high-profile trials that dominated headlines in Minnesota in recent years: A white law enforcement officer is accused of using excessive force during a routine traffic stop, killing Ricky Cobb II, a Black man.

But this one is different.

Londregan, 27, will be tried under a new state statute, revised after George Floyd's killing, that sets a higher bar for when law enforcement is legally permitted to use lethal force.

The trial also will take place in a new legal environment. Londregan is the first officer charged by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, a former chief public defender who campaigned in the wake of Floyd's murder on a promise to hold law enforcement liable if they break the law.

In the early days of what's likely to be a lengthy pretrial process, the trooper's defense team is targeting Moriarty's politics. At Londegran's first court appearance last month, dozens of troopers gathered outside to protest against the charges. Assembling in the shadow of the courthouse, they waved signs reading: "Shame On You Moriarty."

The scene resembled other protests at the courthouse over the past eight years, when activists carried signs demanding a recall of then Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Except, in the past, protesters accused Freeman of being too reluctant to hold police to the same standard as normal citizens. Now the protesters were law enforcement agents, and their objection to Moriarty was the opposite.

 

"Together we understand the difficulties of the profession," said Mike LeDoux, president of the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association, who was among Londregan's supporters. "Now more than ever, officers are wondering if they will be supported in a use-of-force case. And I think that's what you're seeing here."

The case against Londregan focuses largely on a 10-second window during an early-morning traffic stop last July. Londregan arrived 20 minutes after two troopers had pulled Cobb over for driving without lights. Cobb was wanted for an alleged violation of a domestic order for protection, and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office issued a 72-hour request to pick him up. The request, which is not a warrant but grants law enforcement probable cause to detain a person, was set to expire later that morning.

The troopers ordered Cobb out of the vehicle. Cobb shifted into drive, took his foot off the brake and let it roll forward. Londregan pulled his gun. "Get out of the car now," he shouted, as the other trooper grabbed at Cobb, whose foot again came off the brake. Cobb's car lurched forward and crashed a short distance down the road. He died on the scene.

From the passenger's side, Londregan fired two shots into Cobb's torso within "several tenths of a second" after shouting the word "now," according to charges.

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