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Darnella Frazier's video of George Floyd's death led to a worldwide movement against police brutality. Photo: Getty Images

Uncle of Darnella Frazier, who filmed George Floyd’s murder, killed as bystander of Minneapolis police chase

The Minneapolis Police Department has had a policy of banning officers from engaging in pursuits with nonviolent offenders since 2019.

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Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old who filmed the murder of George Floyd, reported on Tuesday, July 6 that her uncle died in a car crash involving Minneapolis police. 

She identified her uncle as Leneal Lamont Frazier in a Facebook post, writing that she is “so hurt,” and that “nothing feels real.” 

“Minneapolis police has cost my whole family a big loss… today has been a day full of heartbreak and sadness,” Frazier wrote. 

Police spokesman John Elder told USA Today that officers were chasing a robbery suspect early Tuesday when a squad car collided with a vehicle at an intersection. The driver of that vehicle, Frazier’s uncle, was transported to a hospital, dying shortly after. 

Leneal Frazier’s sister, Cheryl, confirmed to WCCO-TV that her brother, a father of five, was also killed in the crash. 

How did this happen?

Elder said police spotted an individual behind the wheel of a car that is believed to have been stolen during a carjacking and linked to multiple robberies. Officers attempted to make a traffic stop early on Tuesday, but the driver left the scene, and an officer in pursuit collided with another vehicle around 12:30 a.m. 

The driver of the police car was treated for “serious but non-life threatening injuries” at a hospital and released. Elder said a third vehicle was also involved in the wreck, but the suspect — who was not apprehended — was not involved in the crash. 

The Minnesota State Patrol is conducting an investigation into the pursuit, and the Minneapolis police department will conduct an internal investigation. 

Frazier, who was just awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation last month, questioned why police were involved in a high-speed chase on a residential road. Law enforcement officials have long considered police pursuits to be one of the most hazardous types of police activity. 

The department updated its policy on such pursuits in 2019, prohibiting officers from chasing individuals suspected of committing nonviolent and lesser offenses, according to reporting from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  

The updated policy states that a pursuit must end if it “poses an unreasonable risk to the officers, the public or passengers of the vehicle being pursued who may be unwilling participants.” 

A 2015 USA Today analysis found that more than 5,000 bystanders and passengers were killed, and tens of thousands more were injured in police car chases since 1979. Even more significant, the analysis discovered that Black people, both innocent bystanders and those fleeing the police, have been killed in police chases at a rate nearly three times higher than everyone else. 

In a news release, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Leneal Frazier’s cause of death was “multiple blunt force injuries.”

“It’s not fair”

In her Facebook post, Frazier slammed the officers for conducting a high-speed chase in a residential area, writing “it’s not fair how the police can just go around killing people… you took an innocent life trying to catch someone else.” 

Cheryl Frazier told WCCO that her brother was a “very good person,” and someone who would “give you the shirt off his back if he had to.” 

In a statement, Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman, Bruce Gordon, said the State Patrol will lead the investigation into this fatal crash. 

“This is an open and active investigation. When completed, the State Patrol will turn its findings over to the county attorney for review,” Gordon said. 

On Wednesday, July 8, well-known civil rights lawyer, Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd, announced that he will also represent the family of Leneal Frazier.

“Police pursuits should be rare and law enforcement should take the greatest of precautions to protect all involved, especially innocent drivers and bystanders. The Frazier family and the Minneapolis community are mourning the loss of yet another Black life because of the irresponsible actions and failings of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Crump said in a statement. 

Space to heal

Many social media users are deeply concerned for the young teen’s mental health. Back in May 2020, Frazier made the instinctive decision to pull out her cell phone and document history. 

The simple action led to a global movement for racial justice, and a historic verdict, holding ex-cop Derek Chauvin accountable for what he did.

Simply witnessing police brutality and the murder of an innocent Black man is traumatizing enough. But because her video went viral and was used in the trial, Frazier faced a plague of bullies and ignorant people harassing her online. 

Last May, Mica Cole Kamenski and Angela Shelby organized an online fundraiser titled “Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund,” which has now accumulated $711,192 in donations. 

On Tuesday, Documenting MN, a Black youth community-led journalism internship program, tweeted in support of Frazier. 

“We genuinely hope she is given space to grieve, space to feel rageful, and be who she needs to be in this time of mourning,” they wrote. 

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