Handcuffed woman hit by train while trapped in cruiser files suit against Colo. LEOs, PDs
The 40-page lawsuit states that the defendants did not provide a safe environment and prevent foreseeable injury during her 2022 arrest
By Ashley Silver
PLATTEVILLE, Colo. — A handcuffed Colorado woman who was left in a patrol car moments before a train slammed into the vehicle last year has filed a lawsuit against a Platteville sergeant and two Fort Lupton officers – as well as both police departments.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, against the Platteville Police Department, Platteville Police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez, the Fort Lupton Police Department, Fort Lupton Police Officer Jordan Steinke and Fort Lupton Police Officer Ryan Thomeczek, according to Denver 7 News.
The 40-page lawsuit states that the defendants did not provide a safe environment and prevent foreseeable injury during Rios-Gonzalez’s 2022 arrest. The officers were responding to an alleged road rage call when the incident occurred.
Rios-Gonzalez was pulled over just past the railroad tracks and bodycam footage shows the Platteville police officer stopping behind her car with his patrol vehicle on the tracks.
Fort Lupton police body camera footage shows two Fort Lupton officers arriving to provide backup to the Platteville police officer. They coax Rios-Gonzalez from her pickup truck, handcuff her and put her in the back of the Platteville patrol car to search her truck for a weapon. A train’s horn can be heard in the distance.
According to the lawsuit, there is a blue ENS sign at the railroad crossing that has a phone number to call if there is police activity on the railroad tracks, but the officers did not call.
As the train approached, the patrol car’s passenger side front door was open and Officer Thomeczek was standing next to the door on the tracks, the lawsuit reads. At 7:54 p.m., the conductor released the train’s emergency air brakes and blasted the horn again until the train hit the car. Officer Thomeczek warned the other officers about the train and ran away from the tracks, according to the lawsuit.
Officer Steinke, who was standing near the Platteville patrol vehicle with Rios-Gonazlez inside, turns back and forth a couple of times as the train approaches, police camera footage shows. He ultimately turns and runs for cover behind a Fort Lupton police car.
Seconds later, the train slammed into the cruiser, catapulting it off the tracks.
“Get us medical emergent. The suspect was in the vehicle that was hit by the train,” Officer Steinke said over the radio.
Rios-Gonzalez was hospitalized with multiple injuries. She suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, broken teeth, a fractured sternum, and injuries to her leg, back and head, according to Paul Wilkinson, her attorney.
Wilkinson said Rios-Gonzalez tried to escape from the vehicle, but it was locked. She also saw the train coming in the distance and was yelling at the officers to get their attention before the train hit the car.
The lawsuit also states that Sgt. Vasquez was deemed a “significant liability risk by his previous employer, the Federal Heights Police Department” before the incident. He left the Federal Heights Police Department in March 2020 and was later hired by the Platteville Police Department.
The document concludes by requesting a trial by jury.