Trooper Londregan greeted by supporters at first appearance

Trooper Ryan Londregan made a first appearance in Hennepin County District Court today, in a very different atmosphere than officers who have recently faced charges in deadly use of force cases. 

Today, over 150 current and retired law enforcement officers assembled in the Public Safety Facility courtyard, lined much of the hallway leading to court, and filled all available seats in courtroom 141. Sadly, I witnessed a very different atmosphere nearly four years ago when Minneapolis Officer’s Chauvin, Lane, Kueng, and Thao made their first appearances in the case involving George Floyd. In that case there were virtually no supporters other than family members, and those officers who had bonded out from their arrests had to navigate with their families and attorneys in and out of the building on their own. The difference in support today was significant and was no doubt uplifting to Trooper Londregan and his family.

Members and supporters of Ricky Cobb’s family (the man Trooper Londregan shot and killed during an arrest situation in July 2023), also were in attendance. Longtime activist Spike Moss was among the group and, while outwardly respectful, I witnessed him with the Cobb family quietly disparaging the support for Trooper Londregan and casting aspersion on the officers, labeling them as racists and describing the law enforcement profession as having not changed since he began his activism in 1965. This was a disappointment to witness, because if there is one person who knows those accusations are false, it is Spike Moss. 

Other positive differences were that Trooper Londregan appeared as a trooper on leave, not as an officer whose agency had fired him without due process the day after the incident, as those involved in the Floyd case had been. Trooper Londregan was also not arrested, but rather summoned to court, and allowed to remain free on his own recognizance after surrendering his passport and agreeing not to “transport” firearms.

The hearing was presided over by Judge Burdorf, who was fielding first appearances for the day. The remainder of the case will be presided over by Judge Garcia in the Hennepin County Government Center courtrooms. The State was represented by veteran county attorney Judith Cole, who routinely handles first appearances; defense attorneys Peter Wold and Chris Madel appeared on behalf of Trooper Londregan. The hearing was non-eventful, and the next hearing was set before Judge Garcia on April 29 at 9 a.m.

Following the hearing, Trooper Londregan and his attorneys left the building and attorney Madel made a brief statement to assembled press, thanking the supporters who had taken the time to come. He also pointed out that in her press conference last week, County Attorney Moriarty had indicated her office had not used a use-of-force expert to assist with evaluating the case, despite announcing earlier in the fall of 2023 that her office had already hired an expert to work on the case. 

A review of Moriarty’s statement last week leaves some wiggle room on the issue of an expert witness. She said, “We were able to determine that charges were appropriate in this charge, without the use of an expert.” That could mean many things, up to and including that the use-of-force expert she had hired wasn’t in agreement that the use of force was unjustified. However, it could also mean Moriarty is keeping the expert’s opinion close to the vest, pending discovery. Either way, it is a safe bet the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will not attempt to try this case without a use-of-force expert witness. As noted, that person’s body of work will be a very telling aspect in determining the state’s angle in prosecuting the case.

Following the brief statements, Trooper Londregan and his attorneys left the area with a group of supporters — all silent and respectful. A small group associated with the Cobb group, numbering just a few, began screaming, “Ricky Cobb, say his name, he was the hero.” It was a pathetic attempt at attention, and died out quickly. 

The “hero” label is likely in response to attorney Madel’s video statement released last week in which he identified Trooper Londregan as a hero. He also said with authority, “Open season on law enforcement must end, and it’s going to end with this case.”

There is a different vibe with this case, at least early on — one that might indicate a turning of the tide in anti-law enforcement sentiment.