Murder trial set for September for Minnesota trooper who shot motorist during freeway stop

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota state trooper who's charged with murder for fatally shooting a motorist as he tried to pull away from a traffic stop is set to go on trial in September.

Trooper Ryan Londregan, 27, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the death of Ricky Cobb II. It was the first hearing in the case for a new prosecution team from a Washington, D.C., law firm that Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty hired to take over after the original leader from her office stepped away from the politically charged case.

“I plead innocent your honor,” Londregan told Judge Tamara Garcia.

Garcia scheduled the trial to start Sept. 9, with one week blocked out for jury selection and two weeks for testimony. The next hearing is set for Aug. 12 to iron out rules for the trial. The charges include second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault.

Defense attorney Chris Madel moved to disqualify the special prosecutors from Steptoe LLC, arguing that firm’s $850 per-hour, per-attorney fee, and $250 an hour for paralegals, would factor into prosecutorial decisions. But he then dropped that motion and demanded a speedy trial.

The outside lawyers include four former federal prosecutors and one former Manhattan assistant district attorney. Moriarty has said she hired them because her office lacks enough experienced attorneys, given its current caseload, to handle the high-profile and complicated case. The contract includes an initial $1 million billing cap for their services.

Troopers pulled the 33-year-old Cobb over on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis last July 31 because the lights were out on his car. They then found that the Spring Lake Park man was wanted for violating a protection order in neighboring Ramsey County. Londregan, who is white, shot Cobb twice as the Black man tried to drive away after troopers ordered him to get out of his car.

Madel maintains that Londregan's use of force was justified to protect himself and another trooper who was partially inside the car.

Law enforcement and Republican leaders have been calling on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to take the case away from Moriarty, a former public defender who was elected on a platform of police accountability following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer in 2020, and turn it over to Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison. Walz has expressed concern about the direction of the case but has not acted.

Cobb’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last month, alleging that the stop and the shooting were unjustified.