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Colo. woman who was handcuffed in cruiser hit by train receives $8.5M settlement

The city of Fort Lupton and town of Platteville, which together employed the three officers sued in the 2022 crash, will each pay half of the settlement

Detained Suspect Train Crash

FILE - This screen grab from dash camera video provided by the Fort Lupton Police Department shows a freight train barreling toward a parked police car with a suspect inside, Sept. 16, 2022, in Fort Lupton, Colo. A former Fort Lupton Police officer, Jordan Steinke, was sentenced to 30 months on supervised probation on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, for placing the handcuffed suspect in the car on the tracks. The collision seriously injured 21-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez. The date/time stamp shown on the video is incorrect. (Fort Lupton Police Department via AP, File)


By Colleen Slevin
Associated Press

DENVER — A Colorado woman who was seriously injured when a freight train hit the parked police vehicle in which she sat handcuffed has reached an $8.5 million settlement, a lawyer representing two of the involved police officers said Wednesday.

The city of Fort Lupton and nearby town of Platteville, which together employed the three officers sued in the 2022 crash, will each pay half of the settlement to Yareni Rios, said attorney Eric Ziporin.

Ziporin represents the two officers who worked for Fort Lupton at the time, Jordan Steinke and Ryan Thomeczek. He declined to comment further on the agreement. Fort Lupton Police Chief William Carnes said in a statement Tuesday that the settlement was reached to “the mutual satisfaction of the parties, recognizes the gravity of this matter, and allows all parties to move forward.”

Former Platteville police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez was also sued. The Associated Press sent his attorneys an email seeking comment Wednesday.

Steinke and Vazquez were both sentenced to probation in connection with the crash; Thomeczek was not charged.

Rios, then 20, was pulled over by Vazquez on Sept. 16, 2022, after a road rage incident that police said at the time involved “menacing with a handgun.” Shortly afterward, Steinke and then Thomeczek arrived to help, and Steinke put Rios in the back of Vazquez’s patrol car. Vazquez had parked on railroad tracks, according to the lawsuit and testimony in Steinke’s trial last year.

Steinke testified that she did not realize where the car was parked, though the tracks and railroad crossing signs can be seen in her body camera footage. She was found guilty of reckless endangerment and assault, fired from her job and sentenced to serve 2 1/2 years of supervised probation.

In comments recorded on body camera footage, Vazquez told other officers that he thought he had cleared the tracks when he parked behind Rios. He said he was focused on her because he was concerned that she possibly had a weapon.

Vazquez pleaded guilty to one count of reckless endangerment and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.

Rios screamed for help after seeing the train approaching, and although a door in the police car had been left open, she was not able to get out of the caged-in back seat, according to the lawsuit, which stated that she suffered serious injuries, including severe head trauma. The suit accused police of being reckless and failing to protect Rios while she was in their custody.

Rios pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor menacing.