No penalty for Minneapolis cop in deadly motorcycle crash

Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau says the officer involved in a fatal collision with a motorcycle this spring will not face any charges or discipline. Harteau on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2013 revealed details of the investigation into the crash and released video of the collision. Harteau said the investigation shows the incident was a tragic accident. (Brandt Williams/MPR News)
  1. Listen No penalty for Mpls. cop in deadly crash

    Nov 15, 2013

The Minneapolis police officer involved in a crash that killed a motorcyclist will not face charges or discipline.

A State Patrol investigation shows the incident was a tragic accident, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said Thursday as she released details of the crash investigation and video of the collision.

The conclusion didn’t satisfy everyone. Dave Bicking, a member of Communities United Against Police Brutality and a former member of the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority, watched the video and Harteau’s presentation and said he felt the collision could have been avoided.

Harteau played a clip of video recorded May 10 by a camera in Officer Josh Young’s squad car as Young and other officers were on their way to help secure the scene of a shooting. The squad car weaves in and out of traffic as it travels westbound along 26th Street. The traffic light is red as Young approaches the intersection. The video records the sound of the impact, which visibly shakes the squad car.

“That’s what Officer Josh Young saw that day,” Harteau said.

Footage taken from a squad car trailing behind shows a blurry image of a black object skidding into the right rear section of Young’s car. The motorcycle’s driver, Ivan Romero Olivares, died at the scene of the crash. His passenger was injured but survived. Video was taken from two other squad cars, but it is graphic and needs to be edited before it is released, Harteau said.

A State Patrol crash reconstruction shows Romero was speeding as he approached the intersection, she added.

“Evidence indicates the motorcycle did not achieve maximum braking,” the chief said. “That means the rear tire locked and the driver attempted to steer to the right just prior to entering the intersection.” With the tire locked, the motorcycle lost stability, tipping to its right and sliding, she said.

A witness driving south on Blaisdell Avenue told police he had the green light as he approached 26th Street, Harteau added. The witness pulled over when he heard police sirens and then saw the motorcycle drive past and hit the police car.

Police later discovered that Romero didn’t have a motorcycle endorsement or permit, nor did he have a Minnesota driver’s license of any kind, Harteau added.

The State Patrol investigation stopped short of saying the collision was all Romero’s fault. Investigators said Young failed to verify there were no vehicles in the intersection before driving through it.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, however, declined to press any criminal or lesser charges against Young.

“Officer Young’s conduct falls far short of ‘gross negligence,” according to a letter from Marlene Senechal, a managing attorney in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to assistant chief Matt Clark. Young’s report of what happened was “fully corroborated” by witnesses, video and physical evidence and an internal investigation found no cause to discipline the officer, Senechal said. “This is not an example of an officer being over the line needing to have behavior correction.”

Harteau’s comments and the release of the video still leave questions and concerns for Bicking.

“I think it was really not necessary for the officer not to proceed through that intersection until they got a green light or got a real chance to see what was going on,” he said.

Bicking added that he doesn’t know why Young was in such a hurry to get to the scene of the shooting involving Terrance Franklin, a burglary suspect who was shot to death by officers after a confrontation in the basement of a home in the Uptown area.

Officers were needed quickly because there weren’t enough personnel on site to keep bystanders from walking through the scene of the shooting, Harteau said.

Bicking was skeptical.

“It’s hard to imagine there weren’t enough officers on that scene,” he said. “There seems to be — whenever there’s an incident involving an officer — that the response is much, much faster … then when it involves any other type of person.”

Ultimately, Romero, the motorcycle driver, would still be alive if officers hadn’t shot and killed Franklin, Bicking said.

A Hennepin County Grand Jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in the Franklin shooting. The attorney representing Franklin’s parents says he’ll file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city at the beginning of next year.

Editor’s Note: Minneapolis Police were not chasing Romero when his motorcycle collided with a squad car. An earlier version of this post incorrectly said police were chasing Romero.

  • PG

    Looks like this guy made some unfortunate choices (including laying down the bike) and then paid the ultimate price. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation teaches you to keep it upright and stay in control.

    In 9 frames of video, the rider crosses 3 lanes of the intersection. Assuming each lane is 10 feet and the video was recorded at 30 frames/second, that’s 100 feet per second, or about 68 miles per hour. Most motorcycles can easily accelerate to this speed in just a few seconds, and it looks like that was another poor choice that contributed to his demise.

    Moral of the story: Get trained and licensed, then save your speed for the track.

  • KTN

    Is anyone surprised the officer escaped any penalty whatsoever. Blame the cyclist, not the cop speeding to the crime scene 30 minutes after it ended. Typical, but the cop has to live with killing an innocent person for the rest of his life, so maybe that is enough

  • Charlie Hurd

    Tragic.

  • Matt

    I find the choice of Bicking as a source for the story interesting. At least he was allowed to illustrate his ignorance with his own words.

    “Ultimately, Romero, the motorcycle driver, would still be alive if officers hadn’t shot and killed Franklin, Bicking said.”
    The logic of this statement is flawed, but if you followed it for the sake of argument, you could say that Franklin and Romero would both still be alive if Franklin wasn’t a burglar who broke into a stranger’s house while fleeing police and then took an officer’s gun and fired twice at police, both he and Romero would still be alive. Or, if we could all just get along, there would be no need for the police at all.
    Unfortunately, crime and criminals and unfairness and regrettable choices and bad luck exist. The police aren’t perfect, but they are pretty professional in Minnesota compared to a lot of places. This will no doubt become a training issue in a lot of departments, which is more constructive than Bicking’s biased opinions.