17-year old Jessica Hernandez was killed on January 26, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. Authorities said Jessica was in a stolen vehicle and tried running over one of the officers, striking him on the leg, which led to that and another officer firing their guns.
A witness, 16-year old Trina Diaz, who was in the passenger’s seat during the incident, stated that the officers were standing next to the car when they fired, and that the car hit the officer only after Jessica was struck, which veered the car in his direction, pinning his leg between the car and a fence.
The coroner’s report shows that Jessica was shot twice to her left side; once to the chest where the bullet went through her heart and both lungs. The coroner determined that none of the shots were fired at close range. Jessica also had bruises and abrasions to her face, torso and neck.
Attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai who represents Jessica’s family said in a statement, “These facts undermine the Denver Police Department’s claim that Jessie was driving at the officers as they shot her.”
Attorney Mohamedbhai also stated “Jessie was clinging to her life after being suffering four gunshot wounds. She was then dragged out of the car, dropped onto the ground, and handcuffed. The abrasions to her face confirm this inhumane treatment.”
The Denver Police Department declined to comment on the autopsy’s findings and Mohamedbhai’s statements.
Autopsy Of Latina Teen Killed By Denver Cops Contradicts Police Account
Jessica “Jessie” Hernandez suffered four gunshot wounds, including two to her left side. An attorney for the family said the findings contradict the police account.
No charges against Denver cops who shot Jessica Hernandez
A 17-year-old driver behind the wheel of a stolen Honda did not hit two Denver Police Department officers who shot and killed her, according to a letter released by the city on Friday.
Still, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said he will not prosecute Officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Greene for the shooting death of Jessica Hernandez on the morning of Jan. 26.
The officers were justified because they reasonably believed the teen was accelerating toward Jordan and that he was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering a serious injury, the district attorney wrote in his decision letter.
Jordan suffered a chip fracture in his ankle during the incident, but he told investigators that he didn’t think he was hit by the car. Instead, he used his left hand to push off the driver’s side of the car as he used his right hand to fire his gun into the windshield, the letter said.
Greene also fired from the driver’s side of the car.
Eight bullets struck the car with five teenagers inside. Three hit Hernandez, but no one else was injured, the letter said.
“The facts show this was a defensive shooting by both officers. That is, their decisions to shoot Ms. Hernandez were justifiable in light of the manner in which she drove the car in close and dangerous proximity to them, threatening the life of Officer Jordan who had little room to avoid the car,” Morrissey wrote in his decision letter.
Lawyers representing the Hernandez family issued a statement saying they were disappointed, but not surprised. The statement said Morrissey is a guardian of the police department, and officers only have to claim they feared for their lives to justify a shooting.
The Hernandez family plans to sue the city over their daughter’s death, said Qusair Mohamedbhai, their attorney.
“The Hernandez family knew that justice for Jessie’s death would not come from Denver’s insiders,” the statement said. “The family continues to seek lawful means for justice and for change within Denver and throughout the nation.”
Morrissey’s decision also was criticized by community and civil rights groups.
The Colorado Latino Forum also expressed outrage.
“We’re sickened and saddened by the decision to exonerate the officers,” said Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the forum’s Denver chapter. “But we’re not surprised.”
Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, issued a statement questioning Morrissey’s objectivity and renewing his group’s call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into use-of-force cases by Denver law enforcement.
Hernandez’s death created an uproar in Denver, as it came on the heels of national high-profile shooting deaths of unarmed minorities by police officers.
The case also triggered two investigations into how Denver police officers respond and conduct themselves around moving cars.
Meanwhile,both officers remain in non-line assignments at the police department, pending an internal investigation, said Raquel Lopez, a police spokeswoman.
Morrissey made his decision after interviewing the officers, the four surviving teenagers and a neighbor who was an eyewitness. The case also relied heavily on ballistics, especially on the direction bullets from each officers’ gun traveled.
The incident began just before dawn when a neighbor called to report a suspicious vehicle in the alley.
The entire encounter between the officers and the car full of teens lasted about one minute, the letter said.
The officers told investigators they approached the car and ordered the teens to get out. Instead, Hernandez tried to maneuver the car in the alley, Morrissey’s letter said.
She bumped into one of the police cars while in reverse. Then, she started moving forward and revved the engine, the officers said during interviews. The car angled toward left toward Jordan.
Jordan fired five shots. Greene fired three.
An acceleration test conducted by a Denver police investigator determined the car could have reached 11 mph in the 16 feet it traveled, the decision letter said. It would have taken less than two seconds to cover the distance.
The teenagers, who were not named, gave inconsistent reports about what happened, Morrissey wrote. One teen said they encouraged Hernandez to try to escape through a gap between one patrol car and a fence.
“I was like, ‘Drive, Jessie, drive. Go!'” the letter said.
All of the teenagers described a confusing scene, and the district attorney’s letter said they had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol and had been awakened by the officers. Their vision also was obscured by foggy, tinted windows.
A neighbor who had gone outside when she first heard police yelling gave an account that supported the officers’ stories, the letter said.
At the end of the letter, Morrissey wrote that Hernandez’s actions created a dangerous situation for herself, her friends and the police officers.
“If there is one message I hope our community understands in this case, it is that this shooting was completely preventable,” he wrote. “It would not have occurred if Hernandez had simply complied with lawful police orders.”
Morrissey and other public officials appeared to anticipate protests and other community outrage over the decision. He, Mayor Michael Hancock and Police Chief Robert White wrote that people should read the entire letter before jumping to conclusions.
The Denver Police Department issued a statement saying it was aware of the outcome and, “We ask the community to review the shoot letter for a full understanding into the events, which occurred on January 26, 2015.”
Hernandez’s family asked for a peaceful response and condemned any violence in their daughter’s name.
After the shooting, White and Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell each said they would conduct reviews of how Denver police react to moving vehicles. The police department said its policy and training review should be finished within two weeks.