No prison sentence for the Colorado cop who locked a woman in an SUV that was hit by a train
This screenshot from dash cam video provided by the Fort Lupton Police Department shows a freight train heading toward a parked police car with a suspect inside, on September 16, 2022, in Fort Lupton, Colorado. The trial began on Monday, July 24, 2023, for the police officer accused of putting the handcuffed woman in the car that was hit by the train. The collision seriously injured 21-year-old Yarene Rios. The date/time stamp shown on the video is incorrect. (Fort Lupton Police Department via AP)
A Fort Lupton police officer who locked a handcuffed woman in a police car that was struck by a freight train was sentenced to probation Friday.
Jordan Steinke, 29, was sentenced to 30 months of probation during an hour-long hearing in Weld County District Court. The former officer was convicted in July of reckless endangerment and assault after a Sept. 16, 2022, incident on the railroad tracks near U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 38.
That night, Stinky and then-Platteville Police Sgt. Pablo Vasquez stopped driver Yarene Ríos González after reporting an incident of road rage, detained her and locked her in a police SUV parked on the railway tracks. Officers then failed to move the SUV when a train barreled down the tracks, honked its horn, and struck the SUV.
Rios Gonzalez survived but was seriously injured.
Criminal charges were filed against both officers. Steinke was the first to stand trial. She opted for a bench trial before Weld District Court Judge Timothy Kearns, who convicted her on two counts but acquitted her of a third count, attempted criminally negligent homicide.
Kearns said Friday he had intended to sentence Steinke to prison but changed his mind after hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense. Both sides requested probation, with the prosecution requesting 30 months of supervised probation, while the defense requested one year of unsupervised probation.
Kearns said he initially thought a prison sentence would send a message to law enforcement that police officers would be held accountable for misconduct, but after listening to the arguments he decided to “check myself.”
“Someone is going to hear this and say, ‘One more officer down,’” Kearns said. “Those are not the facts of this case. The court is crafting a sentence that we hope will ensure we get a meaningful educational component. If there is a violation, Ms. Steinke, I will go back to my original response regarding how to handle sentencing. I want to be clear about that.”
Steinke cried during the sentencing and apologized to Rios Gonzalez in a statement she read in court.
“What happened that night has haunted me for 364 days,” Steinke said. “I remember you screaming and screaming. I remember begging you to tell me your name. Praying to stay awake. I never felt so helpless. “We couldn’t get you out of the car.”
Steinke said she hopes to hold educational conversations for new police officers about the danger of railroad tracks and how important it is for officers to be aware of their surroundings. Cairns ordered her to complete 100 hours of community service and authorized any “educational component” to count toward those hours.
Steinke was fired after the conviction. The third-degree assault conviction will also result in the revocation of her Peace Officer Standards and Training certification, her attorney, Mallory Revell, said during Friday’s sentencing hearing.
“The decertification, which we expect, means she will never become a police officer again,” Revell said.
Chris Ponce, Rios Gonzalez’s attorney, made a statement on his client’s behalf during the sentencing hearing. He said Rios Gonzalez, who suffered permanent brain injury and physical injuries in the crash, lost all faith in the justice system that night and felt conflicted about what sentence Steinke should serve.
“The struggle she feels is that every day she has to feel this pain,” Ponce said. “And she had to deal with (doctor’s) appointments and her life changed dramatically. And I feel upset, very upset about that — and angry about that — but on the other hand, I feel sad for Ms. Steinke, and I think, I feel really sorry for the way she lost her career.” .
Ponce added that Rios Gonzalez, who watched the hearing virtually, wanted Steinke to write a letter of apology. Cairns refused to order Steinke to do so.
“This has to come from you, from your heart, not because the judge told you to,” Kearns told Steinke.
Several people spoke in support of Steinke during the sentencing hearing. They noted that she had suffered from nightmares and panic attacks since the accident and felt guilty and remorseful over the accident.
Steinke told the judge she wanted to “make the best of this.”
Addressing Rios Gonzalez, she said in court: “I am very sorry.” “As a police officer, I never intended for another human being to be harmed under my supervision. I feel deeply responsible for what happened to you that night, and I accept the court’s decision to hold me accountable.
Vasquez’s case is still pending and a preliminary conference is scheduled for December.
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