No charges for officer in fatal motorcycle crash

Officer Josh Young was responding to the scene of the May 10 Terrance Franklin shooting

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau on Thursday shared the outcome of the investigation into a fatal motorcycle crash involving a police squad car. Credit: Dylan Thomas

The Minneapolis police officer involved in a fatal May 10 collision with a motorcyclist will not face criminal charges or any discipline resulting from an internal affairs investigation, Chief Janée Harteau said Thursday.

The crash at 26th & Blaisdell killed Ivan Romero-Olivares, 24, and injured his girlfriend, Joselin Torrejon-Villamil, 20, a passenger on the motorcycle. The driver of the squad car, Officer Josh Young, was responding to a call for any available officers to assist at the scene of an officer-involved shooting at 2717 Bryant Ave. S., which occurred about 3:30 p.m. that afternoon.

It was a challenging day early in Harteau’s tenure as chief, one that raised questions about the actions of her officers. Just prior to the crash, an altercation between police officers and Terrance Franklin, a burglary suspect, in the basement of a Wedge neighborhood home left the 22-year-old dead and two officers injured with gunshot wounds.

Harteau said those officers had already been transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital when, just before 4 p.m., an officer at the scene of the shooting put out a call for additional police units to help secure a perimeter around 2717 Bryant Ave. S.

Young, who was patrolling the Third Precinct that day, had earlier used his squad to stop traffic along the ambulance route, and was en route to the scene with bottled water for officers when he heard the call, Harteau said. He activated his lights and siren and proceeded westbound on 26th Street, a one-way, followed by two other police vehicles.

Traffic on 26th Street was stopped at a red light at the intersection with Blaisdell Avenue, a southbound one-way. Young later told investigators he looked to his right as he entered the intersection and saw several vehicles traveling southbound on Blaisedell Avenue slow and come to a stop.

An accident reconstruction conducted by the State Patrol determined Young slowed his vehicle to about 14–16 mph to maneuver around an SUV stopped in the crosswalk, then sped up to about 24–26 mph. The motorcycle driven by Romero-Olivares struck Young’s vehicle on the rear passenger side as the squad was exiting the intersection.

During Thursday’s press conference, the chief played video captured on the dashboard camera of the police vehicle immediately behind Young’s squad car. It showed the motorcycle was already on its side and sliding when it struck the squad.

The motorcycle isn’t visible in footage from the dashboard camera in Young’s vehicle, but there is a loud noise and a jolt at the time of the collision.

The State Patrol determined the motorcycle was traveling about 32–34 mph at the start of the skid. The rear tire locked, causing the motorcycle to go into a slide, according to the report.

The posted speed limit on both streets is 30 mph. Romero-Olivares did not have a motorcycle permit or endorsement, and did not have a valid Minnesota drivers license.

The State Patrol report listed two main contributing factors in the crash: Romero-Olivares driving over the speed limit and “failure to use due care by Officer Young.” It listed as another possible factor Romero-Olivares’ inexperience driving a motorcycle.

Harteau challenged the findings regarding Young.

“The State Patrol report bases this finding on the conclusion that Officer Young failed to verify that there were no approaching vehicles before continuing through the intersection against the red light,” she said. “However, Officer Young slowed, checked multiple times for vehicles and only then proceeded cautiously through the intersection.”

Harteau also quoted from witness statements, including one from a driver who reportedly saw the motorcycle drive past other vehicles that had already stopped. Another witness saw the accident from a nearby apartment building and told police the motorcycle was “going fast” before it struck the squad car, she added.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office investigated the crash and declined to issue criminal charges. Another investigation found “insufficient evidence” for misdemeanor charges of reckless or careless driving, Harteau said.

Young will face no discipline following an internal affairs investigation, which has closed.

“I support the internal affairs findings,” Harteau said. “Discipline is meant to correct behavior. So is training. This is not an example of an officer being over the line, needing to have behavior corrected.”