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    Minnesota state trooper charged in Rochester teen’s traffic death

    By Mike Heuer,

    9 days ago

    July 9 (UPI) -- Minnesota state trooper Shane Roper is charged with several felonies for allegedly causing a three-car collision that killed Olivia Flores,18, and injured five others on May 18.
    Minnesota State Patrol trooper Shane Roper was charged with several felonies and other criminal offenses in the May 18 traffic death of an 18-year-old teen and causing injuries to five others while trying to catch a traffic offender for a minor offense. Photo by Minnesota State Patrol

    Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem on Tuesday filed charges accusing Hayfield resident Roper, 32, of second-degree manslaughter, vehicular homicide, five counts of criminal vehicular operation, reckless driving and careless driving in the accident at the intersection of 12th Street SW and Apache Drive SW in Rochester, Minn.

    "Trooper Roper, violating his duty in such a gross fashion, caused the death of a young lady celebrating her impending graduation from high school," Ostrem says in the criminal complaint .

    "Roper's conduct violated the State Patrol's core values," he continues. "As with any other person driving recklessly and without regard to the very basic rules of the road, Mr. Roper's conduct cannot be tolerated."

    The Rochester Police Department investigated the crash and said Roper was stationary in his patrol car before initiating the pursuit that ended in the deadly three-car collision.

    Roper also had a ride-along passenger in his police cruiser.

    The criminal complaint Ostrem filed says at about 5:40 p.m., Roper witnessed a minor traffic offense and drove south on Highway 52, reaching a speed of 98 mph with the patrol car's emergency lights on.

    Ostrem says Roper turned off the emergency lights while following the suspected traffic offender as the motorist exited onto 12th Street SW.

    Roper briefly slowed down to make the exit, quickly accelerated to 83 mph in a 40 mph zone as gave the car "full throttle" when approaching the intersection with Apache Drive SW, Ostrem says.

    The intersection is the primary entrance for the Apache Mall, which Ostrem says has "very active traffic" during the late afternoon and early evening hours,

    The roadway's configuration also makes it hard to see oncoming traffic.

    Ostrem says the driver of an SUV was turning left at the intersection, which obscured Roper's view of vehicles in the left-turn lane.

    Roper was speeding at 83 mph when a Ford Focus carrying three people started to turn left.

    Roper couldn't slow down in time to prevent the collision and rammed into the Ford while traveling about 55 mph.

    The impact forced Roper's cruiser and the Ford into a Toyota RAV4 carrying two people.

    Ostrem says the Ford's driver described Roper's speed as "like a rocket," and several witnesses said the police cruiser was going exceptionally fast with no emergency lights or a siren on to warn others.

    The collision killed Flores due to blunt-force trauma as she rode in the Ford's backseat.

    The Ford's driver had a lacerated liver and bruised kidney, and the other passenger suffered a broken pelvis, lacerated kidney and other injuries.

    Both people in the RAV4 felt physical pain due to the accident, Ostrem says.

    The ride-along passenger in Roper's patrol car suffered multiple fractures and bruised ribs.

    Roper weeks later told the accident investigators he was trying to get closer to the suspected traffic offender but said he wasn't in a traffic pursuit.

    He also said he didn't know how fast he was driving and thought the emergency lights were on.

    Investigators learned Roper caused four other accidents due to inattentive driving or excessive speed, including one in which he was traveling at 135 mph in a 55 mph zone without using his cruiser's emergency lights.

    During the three hours he was on duty prior to the deadly May 18 crash, Ostrem says Roper drove 99 mph while trying to make traffic stops for minor moving violations.

    Although charged with several felonies, Roper is on paid leave as required by a labor contract with state troopers.

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