Ex-MPD officer sentenced to 270 days in workhouse for charge stemming from fatal 2021 crash
The former Minneapolis police officer involved in a fatal crash during a 2021 pursuit was sentenced on Wednesday morning.
As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in April, 39-year-old Brian Cummings entered a guilty plea to criminal vehicular homicide for a chase and ensuing crash that killed 40-year-old Leneal Frazier, an innocent driver who wasn’t involved in the pursuit.
Cummings was sentenced in Hennepin County Court on Wednesday to 270 days in the Hennepin County workhouse. The state had asked for one full year in jail at the workhouse but didn’t fight for prison time because Cummings accepted responsibility under the plea agreement, which is typically a rare move for a former officer.
Cummings’ guilty plea marks the first time in Minnesota that a police officer has pled guilty to a homicide offense without having been previously convicted or promised a concurrent sentence, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty.
Frazier, who was a father of six, was caught in the middle of the high-speed chase in North Minneapolis on July 6, 2021.
Surveillance video shows the male suspect, identified as 19-year-old James Jeremiah Jones-Drain, fleeing and blowing through the intersection of 41st and North Lyndale avenues at nearly 100 miles an hour, and just missing Frazier.
Cummings followed seconds later and hit Frazier’s Jeep on the driver’s side, and court documents say he was driving around 90 mph in a 25 mph zone when Frazier was hit.
His final day with the Minneapolis Police Department was Oct. 23, 2021.
Cummings spoke at his sentencing hearing and addressed the Frazier family.
“I’d like to also offer my most heartfelt apology to the untimely death of Mr. Frazier and I pray the Frazier family will find peace,” Cummings said.
The family of Leneal Frazier has gathered at the crash site many times to mourn his death. They also spoke at Wednesday’s sentencing, and asked for more time behind bars.
Cummings had previously moved to dismiss the charges against him, but that motion was denied by a judge. A trial for Cummings had also been scheduled to start on Sept. 19, 2022, but was moved to May 1, 2023. He entered a guilty plea days before the trial was supposed to start, which resulted in the dropping of a manslaughter charge.
If Cummings violates the terms of his probation, he could then face up to four years in prison, the plea agreement states.
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty released a statement following the sentencing:
“Community members expect that those empowered to enforce the law will not callously disregard the lives of others when they do so. Thankfully, Mr. Cummings’ criminal conduct is not representative of the many enforcement officers who act and drive responsibly with respect for the safety of our community members each and every day. Good police work is a critical part of public safety, and we expect police officers will not break the law under the pretense of enforcing the law. Mr. Cummings’ actions fell far short of those expectations.
“Today’s sentencing sends an important message that every person in our county will be held accountable for their actions when they break the law. Mr. Cummings has acknowledged he had other options that day and should not have continued the pursuit through city streets at such high speeds, causing excessive danger to others on the road. The criminally-negligent driving to which Mr. Cummings admitted will not be tolerated, and he has now been held accountable in the criminal legal system.
“My thoughts are with Leneal Frazier’s family, and I am hopeful today’s sentencing helps them as they go forward without him. They have endured a long road to criminal accountability with patience and dignity. I cannot imagine their continued pain and grief, knowing their loved one’s life was wrongfully taken by someone sworn to protect them.”
Frazier’s brother, Richard Frazier, as well as others, spoke after Cummings’ sentencing hearing outside the courthouse, saying “He’s never coming back… it don’t make us feel no better.”
“I want to hate you, but being a god-fearing woman, that’s not right, you didn’t plan to do this, but you did make a mistake that changed our lives,” said Jamie Frazier, victim’s daughter. “I pray for you, I pray for your family, I really do hope you have some type of remorse inside of you.”
The Frazier family plans to file a lawsuit. Their remarks can be found in the video player at the bottom of this article.
Court records show Jones-Drain has a jury trial scheduled to begin on Aug. 28.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Eric Chaloux will have more in this evening’s newscasts.
[anvplayer video=”5184885″ station=”998122″]