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State trooper in Rochester crash that killed 18-year-old Olivia Flores charged with manslaughter

Minnesota state trooper charged with killing Owatonna teen in April crash
Minnesota state trooper charged with killing Owatonna teen in April crash 02:24

OWATONNA, Minn. — A Minnesota State Patrol trooper was charged Tuesday in May's crash that killed an Owatonna high school cheerleader and injured five other people. 

The crash happened at the intersection of 12th Street Southwest and Apache Drive Southwest in Rochester.

Documents say Shane Roper, a 32-year-old trooper with eight years of experience, was driving his squad car with "excessive speed" and without his lights on when he hit a Ford Focus that was trying to make its way through the intersection. The impact then caused the two cars to hit a Toyota Rav4.

Before the crash, Roper was following a separate driver he suspected had committed a petty traffic offense.

According to the charges, he activated his emergency lights and accelerated to 98 mph on Highway 52 and slowed when he exited onto 12th Street Southwest. When he got onto 12th Street Southwest, he turned off his emergency lights and accelerated to 83 mph in a 40 mph zone.

Documents say he wasn't able to brake fast enough and couldn't avoid the collision. He struck the Ford Focus while going at least 55 mph.

The driver of the Focus said Roper's squad car was as fast as "a rocket," and other witnesses described it as "flying," "in a blink of an eye," and "hauling a**." None of the witnesses saw emergency lights or heard a siren, documents say.

A passenger in the Ford Focus, 18-year-old Olivia Flores, was killed in the crash. Two others in the Focus were injured, as well as the two in the Toyota Rav4. Roper also had a passenger with him at the time, a "ride-along," who was also injured.

In a statement weeks after the crash, Roper said he was trying to "close the gap" between his squad car and the vehicle he suspected of the traffic violation. He said he was not in active pursuit, was not paying attention to his speed, and thought his lights were still activated. Roper added that he attempted to "clear" the intersection before he entered it.

Documents say Roper's driving records reveal four prior crashes due to his "inattentive driving or excessive speed." Three hours before the fatal collision on May 18, he was driving over 99 mph on "numerous occasions" while trying to initiate traffic stops, even at one point traveling 135 mph in a 55 mph zone without his lights or siren. Court documents also note that he has had consistent driving-related training over his eight years with the State Patrol. 

The charges say Roper's driving conduct on May 18 was "grossly negligent" and "disregarded the safety and lives of other individuals on or near the roadway."

Roper was charged with second-degree manslaughter, one count of criminal vehicular homicide and five counts of criminal vehicular operation, as well as reckless driving and careless driving counts. Second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

"We express our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Olivia Flores and to the other community members affected by the tragic fatal crash," Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol Col. Christina Bogojevic said. "The conduct alleged in the criminal complaint is concerning and does not align with the State Patrol's core values."

Roper remains on paid investigative leave, which is in line with the troopers' labor contract.

Attorneys for Flores' family released a statement saying, in part, "It is heartbreaking and unacceptable to the Flores family that the State of Minnesota allowed Trooper Roper to be on the road in a Minnesota State Patrol squad car after knowing that he posed a clear danger to others."

Olivia Flores Family Statement July 9 2024 by WCCO - CBS Minnesota on Scribd
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