Crime, Law and Justice

Minnesota state trooper faces multiple felony charges after fatal Rochester crash

Crashed vehicles
The scene of a multi-car collision at the intersection of Memorial Parkway Southwest and 12th Street Southwest, just north of Apache Mall, on May 18 in Rochester.
Maya Giron | Post Bulletin

A Minnesota state trooper is facing multiple felony charges in connection with a May crash in Rochester that left one person dead and five others injured.

young woman with dark hair and pom poms laying on bleachers
Olivia Flores, 18, of Owatonna died May 19, 2024, after a crash involving a State Patrol trooper who was pursuing another vehicle through a Rochester intersection.

The charges allege that trooper Shane Roper was traveling at 83 mph in a 40 mph zone near Apache Mall — without his emergency lights activated — on May 18. According to the criminal complaint, Roper did not have time to slow down or move his squad car out of the way when he struck the passenger’s side of a Ford Focus at a minimum of 55 miles per hour. The impact caused both the Focus and the squad to collide with a Toyota Rav4.

The crash killed 18-year-old Olivia Flores of Owatonna, one of two passengers in the Focus.

The charges also allege that Roper’s State Patrol discipline records show he was involved in four prior crashes while driving his squad car “either due to inattentive driving or excessive speed.”

Roper, 32, who’s been a state trooper for about eight years, was charged Tuesday by summons in Olmsted County with criminal vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter and five counts of criminal vehicular operation causing substantial bodily harm, along with misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and careless driving.

He’s due to make his initial court appearance on Aug. 29.

In a news release announcing the charges, Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said that Roper “violating his duty in such a gross fashion, caused the death of a young lady celebrating her impending graduation from high school. Several other persons suffered serious injury. Roper’s conduct violated the State Patrol’s core values. As with any other person driving recklessly and without regard to very basic rules of the road, Mr. Roper’s conduct cannot be tolerated.”

Col. Christina Bogojevic, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, issued a statement expressing condolences to Flores’ family and others affected by the crash.

“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,” Bogojevic wrote, stating that Roper remains on paid investigative leave.

Flores was preparing to graduate from Owatonna High School at the time of the crash and was an avid member of the cheerleading team.

“She had the true leader personality, wanting to make you better because she knew that you could be better,” her obituary stated. “She would work endlessly at different stunts to prove that it could be done, and then help show and teach you that you can do it, too.”

In a phone interview with MPR News on Tuesday, Flores family attorney Tom Braun said he is preparing a lawsuit against the State Patrol. He said that the family wants Gov. Tim Walz and Department of Public Safety leaders to start an independent, third-party investigation into the patrol’s policies and procedures.  

“Number one: How could it come to pass that Trooper Roper could still be employed as a State Patrol officer given his past driving conduct?” Braun said. “Two: What institutional controls were in place to ensure that when he was still employed and on the road that he wasn’t operating his motor vehicle in the manner that we know now?”

Braun’s law partner Dan McIntosh added that the family is relieved that Roper is facing charges but is still coming to terms with his alleged actions before the crash.

“Each new step can bring some additional pain and grieving,” McIntosh said. “And especially with the allegations in this complaint of really how shocking the trooper’s conduct was.”

According to the charges filed Tuesday:

Roper was conducting traffic enforcement at about 5:40 p.m. on May 18, a Saturday, when he started following a vehicle south on U.S. Highway 52 for “an apparent petty traffic offense.” Data and camera footage from the squad showed he accelerated to 98 mph on the freeway with lights activated.

He followed the vehicle off the freeway at the 12th Street SW exit heading east toward the entrance to Apache Mall, turning his lights off as he accelerated back to 83 mph in the 40 mph zone.

“It is noteworthy that Apache Drive SW is one of the primary entry points to the mall area and has very active traffic during the late afternoon and early evening hours of a typical Saturday,” the criminal complaint states. “It is also noteworthy that traveling eastbound on 12th Street SW from the Highway 52 entrance ramp passes over the highway. The crest in the roadway formed by that overpass limits the distance westbound vehicles can see oncoming traffic.”

The complaint states that Roper, traveling east, appeared to have a green light at the mall entrance, while a large eastbound SUV waiting to turn left partially obstructed the view of any westbound traffic.

A westbound Ford Focus — with Flores as one of the passengers — attempted to turn left and was hit by Roper’s squad car. The complaint alleges that due to his speed, Roper “was unable to sufficiently brake or maneuver his squad car to avoid the collision.”

Crashed vehicle
The charges allege that trooper Shane Roper was traveling at 83 mph in a 40 mph zone near Apache Mall — without his emergency lights activated — on May 18 when he collided with two other vehicles.
Maya Giron | Post Bulletin

The two vehicles collided with a third at the intersection. No witnesses to the crash saw or heard emergency lights or a siren, the complaint states.

Roper provided a statement to investigators several weeks after the crash in which he “confirmed that he was attempting to ‘close the gap’ between his squad car and the vehicle he suspected of being in violation of the traffic code.

However, Roper said that this was not an active pursuit. Roper also said he was not paying attention to his speed,” the complaint states. He told investigators he thought his lights were activated.

In addition to the prior crashes noted in Roper’s patrol discipline records, the complaint states that in the hours leading up to the crash, “on numerous occasions Roper accelerated to over 99 miles per hour while attempting to initiate traffic stops for suspected petty traffic offenses. There was a consistent pattern of Roper reaching and maintaining these high speeds either without activating his emergency lights at all, or turning them off while driving at high rates of speed.”

On the same day, Roper also reportedly accelerated to 135 mph in a 55 mph zone while responding to a medical assistance call, without lights or siren activated.

Roper, who had a ridealong passenger that day, allegedly told that person on the way to the call that “medical assistance likely would not be needed and that driving in such a manner was normal behavior for him.”