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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


It isn't clear, amid a sudden swirl of developments, what all contributed to Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty's unexpected decision Sunday to dismiss murder and manslaughter charges against state trooper Ryan Londregan, but the outcome is the right one.

The case, following the shooting death of motorist Ricky Cobb II by Londregan during a traffic stop last summer, has been plagued with troubling questions and credibility concerns throughout. For that reason, even after the dismissal, a review of how it was handled is in order.

A quick review of the history:

In July 2023, Cobb was stopped by troopers on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis because his taillights were out. Officers learned during the stop that he was wanted by Ramsey County officials for violating a no-contact order in a domestic case.

Body camera footage of the encounter showed troopers demanding that Cobb, who is Black, get out of his vehicle. He failed to do so and began driving away when one officer tried to unbuckle his seat belt through the driver side window. That's when Londregan, who is white, fired the fatal shots at Cobb. Cobb's vehicle continued to move, causing two troopers to fall to the ground.

The emphasis on Cobb's and Londregan's respective races is unfortunate but unavoidable in the tense broader context of police-community relations following the murder of George Floyd and other police-involved shootings in recent years. A perceived need to challenge racial injustice was a factor that led to Moriarty's election as county attorney in 2022.

Moriarty initially charged the 27-year-old Londregan with murder and manslaughter, but on Sunday she announced she was dismissing those charges. She said that decision came about because of a prosecution expert's new analysis of video from the scene and recent statements by Londregan's defense attorney. She said that during earlier court hearings the defense team had not raised the legal claim that the trooper fired because he believed Cobb was reaching for his gun and that the other troopers' lives were in danger.

She cited the expert, who said that the video reveals "horrible, horrible, horrible" tactics displayed by the troopers but shows that Londregan used lawful force in the moment because he "could have shot to prevent great bodily harm or death" to his partner.

Yet on Monday, Gov. Tim Walz — who has publicly criticized Moriarty's handling of the case — revealed he had planned to use his legal authority to remove Moriarty from the prosecution.

In our view, the key evidence is in the video. It's unchanged from when it was first made public, so it's difficult to discern why it would make a difference now. Attorney and legal consultant Joe Tamborino, who is not involved in the case but has been following it, agreed that the interpretation reached now could have been made in the beginning.

At the time the charges were first filed, a bipartisan group of Minnesota's congressional representatives had called for the case to be reassigned, with Democratic Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips joining the four Republicans in the delegation. And state Attorney General Keith Ellison said he would study the issues even though he serves as a representative of state agencies, which he has acknowledged could pose a conflict of interest.

Gov. Tim Walz also had publicly questioned Moriarty's handling of the case but had not yet moved to remove it from her. On Monday, he said he would have done so soon.

Members of the public will be left to speculate whether such pressure led to Moriarty's decision. A Hennepin County Attorney's Office spokesman said Monday in a statement that Moriarty had become "aware of credible rumors about the governor potentially intervening in the case" but that "these rumors did not impact the decision" to dismiss.

As the Star Tribune Editorial Board noted previously, the controversy surrounding key evidence in the case remains troubling, and the multiple concerns that have been raised about disclosure merit further review. Tamburino said that the governor and attorney general could convene a grand jury to review the handling of the case.

Whatever procedure is used, the state — through Walz and Ellison — has the authority to investigate how the case was handled and ought to do so.