Denver police chief says questions remain in shooting of teenage girl

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 29, 2015 6:00 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - An officer involved in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl driving a stolen car may have been injured trying to avoid the vehicle, instead of by being struck by it as earlier believed, Denver's police chief said on Thursday.

Chief Robert White told reporters there are "unanswered questions" surrounding the shooting death on Monday of Jessica Hernandez, who died of multiple gunshot wounds fired by two Denver officers.

Police have said officers responded to reports of a suspicious car parked in an alley in the city's Park Hill neighborhood and the car was determined to be stolen.

White's original account said that Hernandez was behind the wheel when both officers approached on foot and one of the officers was struck by the moving vehicle, prompting the two officers to fire multiple rounds into the car.

But White on Thursday said it was unclear what led up to the shooting. He said one of the officers had a fractured leg, but the police chief said the officer might have suffered that injury trying to avoid the vehicle rather than by being struck by it.

The district attorney's office has launched an investigation into the shooting, so White said he was reluctant to provide further details.

There were four other juvenile girls inside in the car, White said, and none of them were injured. They were questioned by police and later released.

A Denver television station interviewed one of the girls who said she was in the car, and she reported that Hernandez lost control of the vehicle after she was shot.

"They ran to the side of the car and they shot her window open and then they started shooting her," the girl, who was not identified, told KWGN.

The officers were identified as Daniel Greene, a 16-year veteran of the force, and Gabriel Jordan, a 9-year veteran. Both have been placed on administrative leave.

This week, protesters angered at Hernandez' death marched on the police precinct where the officers worked, and at the district attorney's office.

Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, said there is no timeline for when the probe will be completed.

“Depending on how long it takes to complete the gathering of all statements, evidence and test results, this could still be several weeks,” she said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Walsh)