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Family of Ricky Cobb II sues trooper charged with murder as case sparks firestorm in Minnesota

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(NEW YORK) — The family of Ricky Cobb II, a Minnesota man who was shot and killed during a traffic stop on July 31, 2023, is taking legal action against Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Ryan Londregan, who was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, in a case that sparked political controversy in the state.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota – Minneapolis division, also names Minnesota State Trooper Brett Seide, who was also involved in the traffic stop but has not been charged in this case.

The lawsuit accuses the officers of “unreasonable seizure” and “excessive use of force,” said family attorney Bakari Sellers during a press conference on Wednesday, where he was joined by members of Cobb’s family.

Olivia Stroh, the mother of Cobb’s 7-year-old son, called for justice and spoke about the trauma her son is going through.

“I just want to say that the pain that I felt from having to tell my son that the person he looks up to — the person who’s supposed to protect and serve – he shot his daddy,” Stroh said of Londregan. “It’s horrifying to tell him that — he’s seven. And he doesn’t deserve this. Ricky doesn’t deserve this. His four other children don’t deserve this, and he absolutely needs justice.”

The lawsuit comes after Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty announced on Jan. 24 that Trooper Ryan Londregan has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter following an investigation into Cobb’s death by her office and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“While deadly force by peace officers is justified in some circumstances, the criminal complaint alleges the circumstances in this case did not justify the use of deadly force,” Moriarty said in a statement announcing the charges.

Londregan’s attorney, Christopher Madel, confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that he will be representing Londregan in the civil case as well as a criminal case. Asked about the lawsuit, Madel said, “We will fight the civil case with the same vigor as we have the criminal case.”

Madel, who argued that Londregan acted to protect himself and other troopers, said that Londregan “has not entered a plea yet because we do not believe there is probable cause for him to stand trial. If the judge later determines probable cause exists, he will, of course, enter a plea of not guilty.”

ABC News reached out directly to Seide and was directed to the Minnesota State Patrol PIO. Asked if Seide has hired an attorney, a spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol told ABC News on Wednesday that “those details are still being worked out,” but declined to provide further comment.

Case sparks firestorm in Minnesota

Cobb’s fatal shooting took place in Minneapolis, where the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked national and global protests for racial justice and led to the conviction of officers involved in his death, including officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck.

With tensions high in the state, Moriarty’s decision to charge Londregan with second-degree unintentional murder sparked a firestorm in Minnesota, pitting the state’s largest police union against the progressive county attorney and even prompting the Democratic governor of the state, Tim Walz, to wade into the controversy.

Londregan’s attorney and police groups, including the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), accused Moriarty of playing politics in this case, while advocates for social justice lauded her decision to charge Londregan with unintentional murder.

“This county attorney is literally out of control. Open season on law enforcement must end, and it’s going to end with this case,” Madel said after charges were announced.

Meanwhile, MPPOA General Counsel Imran Ali accused Moriarty in a Jan. 24 statement of making “politics and ideology her source material, not the law.”

The MPPOA, which has more than 10,000 members and is the largest organization representing officers in the state, sent a letter on April 3 to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to intervene and urged him to reassign the case from Moriarty’s office to the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

In the letter obtained by ABC News, MPPOA disputed Moriarty’s argument that Londregan “did not follow [his] training” and included sworn declarations from Londregan’s trainers who provided the defense with testimony that Londregan did not violate policy.

The Democratic governor, who has been asked about the firestorm surrounding the case in media appearances, told ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, KSPT, on March 22, that he was still considering whether to reassign the case to the State Attorney General.

Walz also acknowledged that he has “had differences with [Moriarty] on several occasions.”

“Minnesotans are paying close attention to this,” Walz told KSPT. “It’s a tragic case. You’ve got a man dead. You’ve got law enforcement officers doing their duty in a situation where split-second decisions need to be made. With that being said we want to make sure that cases are heard fairly.”

ABC News has reached out to Walz’s office for further comment on the case and an update on whether his office plans to intervene.

Sellers said on Wednesday that the family supports Moriarty, appreciates her “transparency” and believes that her office “should keep this case.”

“This is not about politics for us … this is about a young man who lost his life,” Sellers said, adding that he has “a great deal of faith that [Walz] will make the right decision.”

Moriarty appeared to wade into the discussion on X, formerly Twitter, on March 26 by retweeting quotes from a Cobb family press conference, including one from a law professor who argued that reassigning the case would be undemocratic.

ABC News has reached out to Moriarty’s office but requests for comment were not returned.

What the video shows

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Cobb was initially pulled over at around 1:50 am on July 31, 2023 because his taillights were out, but after he was stopped, the troopers learned that the 33-year-old was wanted for violating a protective order in a neighboring county and were asked to arrest him.

Bodycam video of the incident shows two troopers speaking with Cobb while standing outside the driver and the passenger side windows, with a third trooper standing behind the car.

The video shows the troopers tried to detain Cobb, but he refused to get out of his vehicle. As he tried to drive away, a trooper attempts to stop him and appears to grab the steering wheel, but the car takes off and knocks two troopers to the ground behind him, while the third is dragged by the car for a couple of seconds.

As Cobb drove away, a trooper who was later identified by DPS as Londregan, appears to fire multiple times at Cobb, who drives a short distance and then strikes a median. The video shows the troopers approaching the car and rendering aid to Cobb but he died on the scene.

“Time is not going to heal it but God got us. It’s just unfortunate that even still today, I still see cars that’s missing a headlight, that’s missing a taillight, and they’re just fine,” Cobb’s sister Octavia Ruffin said on Wednesday. “They’re just cruising, just having a good time. My brother should be here. Ricky Cobb II should be here.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) told ABC News on Jan. 25 that Londregan, along with the two other troopers involved in the incident, were placed on paid administrative leave amid an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Internal Affairs Division.

Asked about updates on this investigation, a spokesperson told ABC News on Tuesday, “the State Patrol doesn’t have additional comments at this time due to this being in the legal process.”

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