No punishment for Denver officers who shot, killed teenager

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2017 10:44 PM

DENVER (AP) — Two Denver officers involved in a fatal shooting that sparked angry protests and followed high-profile killings by police elsewhere in the country will not be disciplined, officials said Monday.

An investigation by the Denver Police Department and other agencies determined the officers used appropriate force when they shot and killed Jessica Hernandez, 17, on Jan. 26, 2015. The review also said they complied with policies in place at the time.

"Nonetheless, this incident is a tragedy for all involved," the department said in a news release. "Ms. Hernandez had her whole life in front of her and we mourn her loss with the family."

The Denver District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the officers, saying their lives where threatened when Hernandez drove toward them in a stolen car. The vehicle did not hit either officer, but Mitch Morrissey, who was district attorney at the time, said it was dangerously close.

The officers fired eight shots into the car, hitting Hernandez three times. Four other teenagers who were in the vehicle were not injured.

Shortly after Hernandez's death, the police department barred officers from shooting at moving vehicles unless someone inside is firing at them. The teen's shooting marked the fourth time in seven months that Denver police fired into a moving vehicle.

The old guidelines let officers fire on a car if it was bearing down on them and there was a chance they could be struck. An independent monitor of the department deemed those rules inadequate, in part because they didn't urge officers to avoid entering a vehicle's path in the first place.

Attorneys for the teen's family released a statement Monday saying they will continue to advocate for police reform.

"DPD's changed policies on vehicle stops and shooting into moving vehicles will hopefully prevent future tragedies like the killing of Jessie and other members of the Denver community," the statement said. "The Hernandez family will continue to work with the community and Denver to try to bring about positive change and ensure that Jessie's death was not in vain."

The shooting prompted protests in Denver and came shortly after the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.