State trooper charged with vehicular manslaughter in fatal Rochester-Twin Cities crash
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State trooper charged with vehicular manslaughter in fatal Rochester-Twin Cities crash

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Olmsted County Prosecutor Mark Ostrem announced Tuesday that criminal charges have been filed against Shane Elroy Roper, 32, a Minnesota State Trooper involved in a crash that injured five people and killed 18-year-old Olivia Flores.

According to the criminal complaint, Roper is charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of criminal vehicular homicide and three counts of criminal driving while involuntary, all felonies.

He also faces two counts of felony criminal operation of a vehicle, one count of felony reckless driving and one count of misdemeanor reckless driving.

The statement said the Rochester Police Department found that Roper activated his emergency lights and exited the Sixth Street Southwest ramp onto U.S. Highway 52 at 98 mph in an attempt to catch a traffic violator before exiting onto 12th Street Southwest. He then turned off his emergency lights and sirens and accelerated to full throttle, reaching 83 mph.

The speed limit on 12th Street Southwest is 40 mph.

According to the criminal complaint, Roper quickly approached the intersection of Apache Drive Southwest, an area where the main entry points to the Apache Mall are located. That area tends to have “very active traffic … on a typical Saturday.”

When Roper’s car was 400 feet from the intersection, the patrol car’s camera showed a green traffic light for eastbound traffic. A larger SUV also traveling eastbound entered the left-turn lane onto Memorial Parkway Southwest, obstructing the view of vehicles turning onto Apache Drive Southwest, according to the complaint.

A Ford Focus with three passengers on board was in this turning lane and attempted to cross the intersection.

“Due to Roper’s excessive speed (he was traveling at 83 miles per hour and at full throttle until 1.4 seconds before impact), when the Ford Focus pulled away through the intersection, Roper was unable to brake sufficiently or maneuver his patrol car to avoid the collision,” the complaint states.

State trooper charged with vehicular manslaughter in fatal Rochester-Twin Cities crash
The scene of a multi-car collision at the intersection of Memorial Parkway Southwest and 12th Street Southwest in Rochester, Minnesota, on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Maya Giron/Forum News Service)

Roper’s police car struck the passenger side of the Ford Focus while it was traveling at least 55 mph. The impact sent both cars east through the intersection and collided with a Toyota Rav4. There were two people in the Toyota.

Witnesses told police the oncoming vehicle was “flying.” Witnesses did not see or hear any flashing lights or sirens.

The rear passenger in the Ford Focus died from injuries sustained from a blunt object in the crash, according to the complaint. The man was previously identified as Flores, the Owatonna teen who had just graduated from high school.

According to the complaint, the driver of the Ford Focus suffered a lacerated liver, a bruised kidney and numerous other minor injuries. The front-seat passenger suffered a fractured pelvis, a lacerated kidney and other minor injuries. The passengers in the Toyota Rav4 suffered physical pain as a result of the collision. In the patrol car, Roper had a passenger with him who suffered bruised ribs and multiple fractures as a result of the crash.

Weeks after the incident, Roper confirmed to law enforcement that he was attempting to “close the gap” between his patrol car and a vehicle suspected of violating traffic laws. Roper said it was not an active pursuit and that he was not paying attention to his speed. He told police he thought his lights were activated.

Law enforcement revealed that three hours before the May 18 collision, Roper had been speeding at more than 99 mph while attempting to conduct traffic stops. Roper had a history of reaching and maintaining high speeds without activating his hazard lights or turning them off while driving at high speeds.

The complaint says Roper was also found driving 135 mph in a 55 mph zone on May 18 while responding to a call for medical assistance.

“On the way to this call, he commented to his passenger that medical assistance would likely not be necessary and that driving in this manner was normal behavior for him,” the complaint states.

A statement from the Olmsted County District Attorney’s Office said the Minnesota State Patrol has specific guidelines and policies regarding high-speed driving.

“During his 8-year career, Officer Roper completed approximately 13 driver training courses for a total of 107 hours,” the statement said.

Ostrem said in the statement that Roper’s “conduct cannot be tolerated.”

“Officer Roper, by his gross violation of his duty, caused the death of a young woman celebrating her high school graduation. Several other people were seriously injured. Roper’s conduct violated the core values ​​of the State Police,” Ostrem said in the statement.

Minnesota State Patrol Chief Col. Christina Bogojevic released a statement, sharing the State Patrol’s condolences to the Flores family and those affected by the fatal crash.

“The behavior denounced in the criminal complaint is concerning and does not correspond to the core values ​​of the State Police. The announcement of the charges marks the next steps in the judicial process related to this case. We respect this process and cannot make further comments due to the ongoing criminal proceedings,” Bogojevic said in the statement.

Roper remains on paid investigative leave in accordance with police employment contracts.