MN state trooper was 'hauling a--' before Rochester crash that killed teen: Charges

A Minnesota state trooper is now charged with manslaughter after a deadly crash in Rochester, Minnesota, in May that claimed the life of an Owatonna teen.

Trooper Shane Roper, 32, is charged with manslaughter, criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation, careless driving, and reckless driving for the May 18 crash that left 18-year-old Olivia Flores dead.

Before the crash

According to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Trooper Roper was working traffic enforcement around 5:40 p.m. at the 6th Street SW ramp to Highway 52 when he saw a minor traffic offense.

The charges detail: "After observing an apparent petty traffic offense, Roper entered his squad car and drove southbound onto Highway 52. Data retrieved from his squad car and its equipped camera revealed that Roper activated his emergency lights and accelerated to 98 miles per hour on Highway 52. Roper's vehicle slowed for traffic as he exited onto 12th Street SW to head eastbound, still following the vehicle suspected of committing a petty traffic offense. Once Roper maneuvered around traffic and entered 12th Street SW, he turned his emergency lights off and accelerated with a fully engaged throttle. In less than a quarter of a mile, Roper's squad car reached a speed of 83 miles per hour. The speed limit on this road is 40 mph."

Roper moved eastbound "at full throttle" on 12th Street SW toward the intersection of Apache Drive SW – the entrance to the mall. It would be at this spot that Trooper Roper would crash into a Ford Focus carrying Flores. The Focus, which was headed westbound, was making a left-hand turn into the mall when it was T-boned by Trooper Roper.

The crash

The complaint points out that the stretch of road near the mall can be tough to navigate. The late afternoon and evening hours on the weekend are heavy traffic times for the mall. Plus, the charges state there is a crest in the roadway from the overpass over Highway 52, which limits the distance that westbound vehicles can see.

Further obstructing the view of the westbound Focus was an eastbound SUV also making a left-hand turn. Due to the speed he was driving, Trooper Roper wasn't able to stop in time when the Focus made its turn.

"Due to Roper's excessive speed (traveling 83 mph and at full throttle up until 1.4 seconds before impact), when the Ford Focus started through the intersection, Roper was unable to sufficiently brake or maneuver his squad car to avoid the collision," the charges state.

Trooper Roper's squad hit the Focus' passenger side. Flores was sitting in the rear passenger's side seat. She died from her injuries. The driver of the Focus suffered a liver laceration, a bruised kidney, and "numerous" other injuries. The front passenger suffered a broken pelvis, a lacerated kidney, and several other injuries.

The impact of the crash sent both vehicles into a Toyota Rav4. Two people in the Rav4 also reported injuries after the crash.

Inside his squad, Trooper Roper was carrying a "ridealong" passenger who suffered rib bruising and multiple fractures. Roper himself was also taken to the hospital for treatment. It's unclear exactly what injuries he suffered.

(KTTC / Supplied)

Witness: Trooper was ‘hauling a--’

Witnesses who spoke with Rochester police described the extreme speed at which the trooper was moving leading up to the crash.

The driver of the Ford Focus told police the squad was moving like "a rocket." Other witnesses described the trooper's speed as "flying," "in a blink of an eye," and "hauling ass." No witnesses recalled hearing emergency lights or a siren leading up to the collision. It should be noted that investigators found that Trooper Roper had turned on his lights when he took off from the 6th Street ramp but turned them off as he entered 12th Street SW.

Roper's statements after the crash

After the collision, Trooper Roper agreed to speak with investigators. He told officers he was trying to trail a driver he suspected of a traffic violation. He told police he was trying to "close the gap" between that driver and wasn't paying attention to his speed. He also clarified he wasn't in an active chase – just trying to catch up with that driver.

Trooper Roper said he had attempted to "clear" the intersection before entering it.

According to the charges, officers found Trooper Roper had been involved in four previous crashes while driving his squad. Officers also found that in just the three hours leading up to the crash, Trooper Roper had accelerated more than 99 mph on multiple occasions to make traffic stops. In one instance, his speed hit 135 mph on his way to a medical call.

Final findings

In the charges, officers reached this conclusion:

"Roper's driving conduct on May 18, including the high rate of speed, failure to verify the intersection was safe for passage, and failure to use lights or a siren to alert other drivers on the roadway of his presence, was grossly negligent and reckless in nature. This conduct disregarded the safety and lives of other individuals on or near the roadway. Roper's driving conduct ultimately caused the collision and resulting death and injuries of the victims."

Minnesota State Patrol statement

In a statement from Col. Christina Bogojevic of the Minnesota State Patrol said Trooper Roper remains on leave:

"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 that occurred on May 18 in Rochester.

"Today the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office announced charges against Trooper Shane Roper. The conduct alleged in the criminal complaint is concerning and does not align with the State Patrol’s core values. The announcement of charges marks the next steps in the judicial process related to this case. We respect that process and cannot comment further due to ongoing criminal proceedings.

"In accordance with the troopers’ labor contract, Trooper Shane Roper remains on paid investigative leave."

Statement from the Flores family

An attorney representing the family of Olivia Flores also shared a statement that reads in part:

"Trooper Roper should not have been on the road in a Minnesota State Patrol squad car on May 18, 2024. During the years leading up to the day he hit and killed Olivia Flores, institutional failures by the Minnesota State patrol and Department of Public Safety repeatedly put Trooper Roper back on the road after he had endangered others while on duty… The Flores family calls on the Commissioner of Public Safety, Col. Christina Bogojevic, and Gov. Tim Walz to commence an open and independent investigation into the organizational failures that led to Trooper Roper taking Olivia Flores' life, and seriously injuring other victims in the crash, to avoid such a senseless and preventable tragedy in the future."

Benefit for Flores family

A benefit for the Flores family is scheduled for 4-9 p.m. at the Owatonna Chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The event will feature a pasta dinner with a silent auction. 

Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased at Owatonna Eagles or United Prairie Bank. Donations can be made via check to Olivia Flores Benefit or via Venmo to @KrenzelokPhotography. 

All money raised will benefit Olivia Flores' family.