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Traffic Stops Should Not Be Death Sentences

Trooper Kills Ricky Cobb II During Traffic Stop.

Minneapolis, Minnesota – Around 2 a.m. on July 31, Minnesota State Patrol trooper Ryan Londregan fatally shot Ricky Cobb II, 33, during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 West near 42nd Ave. North. Cobb II is Black and Londregan is white. It’s yet another deadly incident in a long pattern of Minnesota authorities’ violent acts against non-threatening Black males during traffic stops.

Instant outcry swept across social media and vigils, press conferences, rallies and protests have been held every day since the killing, starting with a vigil on Monday night at North Mississippi Regional Park near the Mississippi River off 49th Ave. North. On Tuesday, Aug. 1 at noon in front of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in Saint Paul, numerous activists and organizers called for accountability for the officers involved.

Later that night near 41st Ave. N. and Lyndale Ave. N. in Minneapolis, dozens of activists and family members of Cobb II gathered to demand justice for Cobb II and marched to the memorial site of another police killing, Leneal Frazier, 40, who was killed by Minneapolis Police in 2021 when an MPD officer crashed into his car. Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, who recorded MPD killing George Floyd. Graffiti has been seen across the Twin Cities paying homage to Cobb II.

Watch Unicorn Riot’s coverage below. Activists gathered at the Hennepin County Government Center multiple nights later in the week and more protests are planned through the weekend including at George Floyd Square.

Outcry Over State Patrol Killing of Ricky Cobb II from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

With unprecedented haste, body camera footage of the incident was released by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) one day after the killing (Strong content advisory for the video linked). In the past it could take years for video footage of Twin Cities police killings to be released to the public, but it’s picked up speed recently. This trend can be traced to years of work by community activists pushing for names and records of officers and the release of videos after incidents of police killings.

Body camera footage was released within a week after Yia Xiong was killed by St. Paul Police on Feb. 12, 2023. Howard Johnson was killed by St. Paul Police Sgt. Cody Blanshan in December 2022 and video was released within days. In Minneapolis last July, the police released some body camera videos of their fatal shooting of Tekle Sundberg within a week.

Cobb II was initially pulled over by State Trooper Brett Seide who said his Ford Focus didn’t have tail lights on. According to the DPS, Seide ran Cobb II’s information and it came that he “was wanted on probable cause arrest for a felony order-for-protection violation issued by Ramsey County. As Seide was gathering this information, [Ryan] Londregan and [Garrett] Erickson pulled up to assist.” While this is not a warrant, it is an order to detain.

A conversation between the officers and Cobb II occurred for several minutes while Cobb II was asking to get his attorney involved and questioned the legality of the troopers quest to arrest him despite not having a warrant for his arrest.

After not having their direct orders followed, an armed Londregan opened the door from the passenger side of Cobb II’s car. A second later Seide opened the drivers side door in an apparent attempt to apprehend Cobb II. Londregan then aimed his gun at Cobb II’s midsection, within the firing range of his own partner, screamed “get out of the car now!” and shot Cobb II twice.

“They literally are saying ‘he wasn’t putting up a fight, he was talking respectfully.’ But they still wouldn’t just tell him. All they wanted to do was wanted him to comply. ‘Do as your told boy’ … They believe that Black men, Black women, Black people in this country, you don’t get to ask questions. You do as you are told. You speak when you are spoken to. You act when I tell you to act. That’s what we see in the video. Three-fifths human – sometimes less than that.”

Brandyn Tulloch, poet, activist, organizer

During a protest on Aug. 1, poet, activist and organizer Brandyn Tulloch said Cobb II was “talking respectfully” to the troopers who in turn only wanted Cobb II to comply with their direct orders or die.

Tulloch later tweeted, “Let’s not forget, 2021 when a white man in Hutchinson, MN recklessly drove off at high speed with a cop stuck to his truck, hit the officer with a hammer, and was arrested and sentenced to 1 year in prison. But somehow Ricky Cobb II ‘deserved‘ to be shot and killed..”

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is investigating the fatal shooting and they reported on Aug. 3 that they found two cartridge casings in Cobb II’s vehicle along with a handgun on the floor in the back of the vehicle. They specified that Cobb II was never “seen holding the gun” and was unarmed when he was fatally shot. The BCA and the Minnesota State Patrol are units within DPS.

Twin Cities based non-profit, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), has since demanded that “an independent use of force investigator—with no ties to any part of state government—be brought in to investigate.”

“It is completely inappropriate to have one division of a state agency investigating another division of that same agency. The bias is obvious,” CUAPB said in a press release on Aug. 2. CUAPB called for charges to be pressed now, saying the “evidence is damning.”

“Even without an investigation, the evidence is damning: these officers engaged in excessive, unnecessary force including deadly force that killed Mr. Cobb II and endangered others. Had anyone else in the community engaged in this conduct, they would already be arrested and charged. The standard for law enforcement officers must be even higher.”

CUAPB statement on Aug. 2, 2023

The Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-MN) has also called “for an independent, full, and transparent investigation” into the fatal shooting of Cobb II. They noted in a statement that Department of Justice policy is that “deadly force may not be used solely to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect.”

“The videos show Mr. Cobb with his hands in clear view of troopers as he calmly asks them why he was pulled over, then if there was a warrant, and finally for an attorney.”

ACLU-MN statement on the fatal shooting of Ricky Cobb II – published August 2, 2023

“He was our protector. He did a lot for us,” said Cobb II’s sister Octavia Ruffin. My brother was an awesome guy, no matter what the news say, he was a good man. “He was a provider for all of us.”

Although the Minneapolis Police Department has now gone a full year without a fatal police shooting, two young men have been killed by authorities on the city’s Northside – Ricky Cobb II by State Patrol and Chue Feng Yang by FBI agents just three months prior.

Reports of systematic, entrenched and racially-based human rights violations in the Twin Cities have piled up from the United Nations, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Minnesota Human Rights Department. Activists noted over the week that Minnesotans don’t need these reports to understand implicit anti-Black bias in policing continues.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty is tasked with the decision on whether or not to charge the troopers involved. She issued a statement on Aug. 1, saying she’s called on the BCA to fast-track their investigation.

“This is an important decision that impacts everyone in our community, including the family and friends of Ricky Cobb, the troopers who were involved, and our broader community. I take both police accountability and the integrity of the legal process very seriously. The troopers have been placed on leave and the BCA is investigating the incident.

The investigation is ongoing, including interviewing of witnesses, and I have asked the BCA to prioritize the investigation. We remain in communication with the BCA to make sure they gather the information we will need to make a decision. Once the case is submitted to us for review, we will use all the resources available to analyze the evidence and make a charging decision as quickly as possible. We cannot discuss the case further until the BCA has completed their investigation.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty statement following the fatal shooting of Ricky Cobb II

Funeral services for Ricky Thomas Cobb II will be held at Immanuel Baptist Tabernacle at 4505 Halifax Ave. in Robbinsdale on Saturday, Aug. 12 with a wake from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and service at 1 p.m.

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