Minnesota State Trooper charged with murder in on-duty shooting

Charging Decision

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty announced today that her office had filed charges against Minnesota State Trooper Ryan Londregan who shot and killed Ricky Cobb II during an attempt to arrest Cobb in July 2023. Trooper Londregan had served as a trooper for 1.5 years and had received commendations for his work, including the enforcement of impaired driving infractions.

The charging decision came after a 7-month investigation conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, lawyers from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (HCAO), and a private law enforcement use of force expert hired on contract by the HCAO to review the case.

The complaint charges Trooper Londregan with: Count I — 2nd Degree Murder, Without Intent, While Committing a Felony (described as 2nd degree assault by firearm), Count II — 1st Degree Assault, and Count III — 2nd Degree Manslaughter, Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk.

A 2nd Degree Murder conviction calls for a presumptive prison sentence of 128-180 months.

The complaint was issued as a Summons, rather than a Warrant or a Complaint and Order of Detention, meaning authorities won’t go through the unnecessary actions of arresting and booking Trooper Londregan in jail prior to his initial court appearance. The HCAO also did not request bail be applied but did request Trooper Londregan be ordered to surrender his passport and firearms and abide by conditions set by the court.

These developments suggest strongly that the HCAO appropriately recognizes Trooper Londregan does not represent a public safety threat, a recognition unfortunately not given to other officers charged for on duty use of force incidents in recent years.

Incident Details

On Monday July 31, 2023, at about 1:50 am, a Minnesota state trooper observed Ricky Cobb driving on I-94 north of Downtown Minneapolis, with his “lights” out. The trooper stopped Cobb near Dowling Ave North and identified Cobb. The scene was a busy urban freeway with traffic passing by at highway speeds. The trooper had to approach and deal with Cobb while standing partially in a lane of traffic.

While running standard checks on Cobb the trooper learned that Cobb was wanted by Ramsey County on a probable cause pickup request related to violation of a domestic no contact order earlier that weekend. This information required the trooper to arrest Cobb.

A probable cause pickup is used frequently during the investigative phase of a case, prior to a formal arrest warrant being issued by a judge. Police have the same authority to arrest someone on a PC Pickup as they do with an arrest warrant, and anyone subject to a PC Pickup has no right to resist arrest or demand to see a warrant, etc. When the police tell someone that they are under arrest, the law demands those people comply with the officers.

At about 2:15 am the initial trooper returned to Cobb’s car and began attempting to get Cobb to cooperate and step out of the car, which Cobb refused to do. By this time two other troopers, one of which was Trooper Londregan, had arrived to provide backup given the felony arrest situation, and the location and time of the stop.

The trooper asked Cobb to turn the car off and surrender the keys, which Cobb refused to do. The trooper again asked Cobb to exit the car at which time the trooper would explain more to Cobb. Cobb continued to refuse, and the trooper told Cobb he was under arrest.

Given Cobb’s refusal to cooperate and exit the car, Trooper Londregan opened the passenger door, and the initial trooper opened the driver door to provide a clear view of the car’s interior for officer safety purposes, and to provide physical access to pull Cobb out if he continued to resist.

As the doors were opened, Cobb put the car in gear, and Trooper Londregan drew his handgun to provide cover as the initial trooper physically tried to pull Cobb out of the driver door. Cobb resisted and drove forward with both troopers partially in the car. Trooper Londregan fired two shots at Cobb who then drove off throwing both troopers onto the roadway.

Cobb drove a short distance before crashing. He subsequently died from the gunshots. A handgun was found on the floorboards immediately behind Cobb. The gun is not visible in any of the body cam video, and it’s unclear at this time if any of the troopers became aware of the gun prior to the shots fired. 

The gun offers insight into why Cobb refused to cooperate and attempted to flee — as he was a felon prohibited from possessing firearms, and his arrest with a gun would have led to a significant charge and a likely prison sentence. 

The presence of Cobb’s gun also offers continued evidence of the extreme risks our law enforcement officers face when doing their job. There is truly no such thing as a routine traffic stop or routine arrest — especially at 2 am on a busy freeway.

The Minnesota State Patrol released body cam video from Trooper Londregan — view it here.

Cobb’s Criminal History

Records documented in an Alpha News article here, indicate Cobb had multiple felony convictions for domestic assault by strangulation and a previous felony conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Cobb was also connected to the “1-9 Block Dipset Gang,” a reputed violent street gang in north Minneapolis.

In an appellate court document regarding one of Cobb’s cases, the court noted that based on recent police contacts it was clear that Cobb “continued to make poor choices by associating with criminal individuals, drugs, and firearms.”

Concluding Takeaways

  • Cobb’s criminal history and his possession of a firearm made it unlikely any amount of discussion or negotiation on the part of the troopers would have led to his cooperation. Those who question Trooper Londregan’s actions need to recognize the extremely difficult position officers are in during such arrest situations. It’s a simple fact that attempting to arrest an armed prohibited felon on a busy freeway at 2 am is no safe or simple task. Those willing to do so on our behalf, are deserving of our respect and the benefit of the doubt. We’ve yet to hear from Trooper Londregan on what he perceived, and that gap in information is significant.
  • The Cobb case is yet another example of a tragic situation born out of a criminal offender refusing to comply with lawful commands. So many of the high-profile cases of deadly force could have been avoided by compliance on the part of the offender. The sooner our society begins valuing compliance the better off we’ll all be. To that end, the National Police Association has been running a public awareness campaign entitled “Comply Now, Complain Later.” It’s a campaign worth supporting.
  • It had been the long-standing practice that in police deadly force incidents, the county attorney would present the case to a citizen grand jury, who would decide whether the officer was justified in their use of force. That changed in the late 2010s when Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided to make charging decisions himself. Reports indicate Moriarty used an investigative grand jury to obtain sworn testimony from witnesses but declined to use the grand jury to make the charging decision in this case. Given the political nature of these incidents it makes more sense to keep the charging decision with the citizen grand jury, and away from an elected official.
  • The hiring of a use of force expert to review the case and provide expert testimony will be a very important aspect to evaluate in this case. We are not aware who this expert is at this point, but this expert’s historical body of work will be telling in evaluating whether the HCAO is acting impartially in this case, or whether they hired an expert who has made a career out of impugning law enforcement officers.
  • There is a fact that should not get lost in this story. Not a single officer in the history of Minnesota had been charged with a crime related to their use of deadly force until 2016. Since that time, a total of eight officers have been charged with various degrees of manslaughter and murder related to on duty use of deadly force incidents. Given the professionalization of the law enforcement in recent decades, the increased standards and training to become an officer, and the diversification of the profession, the recent trend of officers being charged doesn’t seem logical. Are we to believe more professional, well trained, and diverse officers are violating the law with more frequency, or is there a decided slant in the lens with which prosecutors are now operating?
  • The prosecution of Trooper Londregan will send a chill across Minnesota law enforcement. This chill will manifest in officers, deputies, troopers, and agents less willing to be proactive and a decrease in officer morale. Given the already difficult environment that exists in police recruitment and retention, Minnesota can expect even less police presence and more emboldened criminals — all leading to more lawlessness and disorder, and to a state that will be decidedly less safe.