Residents want charges for Colo. officers in fatal OIS

Police opened fire and killed a suspect Monday after one officer was struck by a stolen car

By Sadie Gurman 
Associated Press

DENVER — Prosecutors on Tuesday promised a thorough investigation and asked angry protesters for patience after police shot and killed a 17-year-old girl who authorities said struck an officer with a stolen car.

The request came after about 20 people rallied outside the office of District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the Monday death of Jessica Hernandez.

Denver police shot and killed a female suspect early Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, after they said she drove a stolen car at officers, hitting one of them in the leg.
Denver police shot and killed a female suspect early Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, after they said she drove a stolen car at officers, hitting one of them in the leg. (AP/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti Image)

Morrissey was out of the office and chief deputy district attorneys Doug Jackson and Lamar Sims spoke over shouts and obscenities from some of the protesters.

Jackson said he could not discuss the facts of the case but assured the protesters that the findings of the investigation will be made public.

"You can decide whether we made the right decision or not," Jackson said.

The girl's cousin, Jose Castaneda, was frustrated and said he didn't want to wait months to find out what happened.

Protesters said they don't trust Morrissey's office to handle the case because the last time a Denver police officer faced such charges was 1992.

"We are sick and tired of these kinds of things happening and there seems to be no true objective investigation," said the Rev. Patrick Demmer of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance.

The mother of another girl in the car previously criticized the way police handled Hernandez after the shooting, saying she was dragged from the car and handcuffed.

Few details were immediately released about the shooting in a middle-class residential neighborhood. Police say Hernandez was one of five people in the stolen car and drove at a police officer.

The four other people in the car were not injured by the gunfire, and all were questioned as part of the investigation. However, none were charged, Jackson said.

Early Monday morning, an officer was called to check on a suspicious vehicle, and a colleague arrived after it was determined the car had been reported stolen, Police Chief Robert White has said.

In a statement, police said the two officers then "approached the vehicle on foot when the driver drove the car into one of the officers."

White said both officers then opened fire. The officer hit by the car was taken to a hospital with a leg injury.

Bobbie Diaz, whose 16-year-old daughter was in the car, said she was lying in bed when she heard four gunshots followed by an officer yelling, "Freeze! Get out of the car! Get down!"

Diaz said she came outside to see officers with their guns drawn pulling people out of the car, including Hernandez.

"She seemed like she was not responding, not moving," Diaz said. "They just yanked her out and handcuffed her."

Meanwhile, Diaz said she heard another person screaming, "She's dead! She's dead!"

Several dozen people with candles and protest signs gathered near the scene of the shooting to demand answers Monday night. Among them was 19-year-old Cynthia Valdez, a close friend and schoolmate of Hernandez.

"We're angry about it. It's another life taken by another cop," she said. "She was trying to find her talent. She wanted to find out what she wanted to be. ... Who knows what she could have been?"

Some people held signs decrying what they called police brutality.

One of the signs read, "Girls' Lives Matter," a play on the "Black Lives Matter" chant that became a rallying cry after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, which was being conducted by police, the district attorney and the Office of the Independent Monitor, a civilian oversight agency for the city.

Police are legally empowered to use deadly force when appropriate. A 1989 Supreme Court decision concluded that an officer's use of force must be evaluated through the "perspective of a reasonable officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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