NORTHGLENN, Colo. – Three officers involved in the December 2017 shooting of a stolen car suspect and his passenger won’t face prosecution in the case, 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young wrote in a review of the shooting released Friday.
Jeremy Patscheck died in the shooting and his girlfriend, Serina Minella, was paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by one of the officers’ bullets on Dec. 13 last year.
According to Young’s review, which was investigated by the office’s Critical Incident Investigation Team, Patscheck and Minella were in a car stolen out of Longmont a week earlier when the shooting happened early that morning. But officers had been watching Patscheck and the car since earlier in the night when they noticed the vehicle was stolen while on patrol.
Officers put a GPS tracking device on it and watched as the car drove around the metro area for several hours. The report says officers were also told that the driver in the vehicle matched the description of a man who had tried to ram a patrol vehicle a week earlier.
The Central Metropolitan Auto Task Force, which is a group of auto theft officers from across the area, had been developing a plan to try and arrest the man. Just before 4 a.m., they got it underway.
A sergeant on the team drove his marked SUV, along with several other officers inside, up to the stolen car with plans to pin it between a garage and the police SUV.
He bumped the car with his SUV, and Northglenn police officers Nathan Galluzzo, Zachery Schieferecke and Emil Czernicki got out of the SUV and told the people inside the car to get out.
That’s when, according to the report, Patscheck put the car in drive and drove toward the garage, then threw it in reverse and allegedly spun his tires. The report says the car was moving toward the sergeant, James Gardner, and that it hit his SUV.
That’s when the three officers shot at the car—14 times in total—hitting Patscheck and Minella. Patscheck died at the scene while Minella was taken to Swedish Hospital with a bullet lodged in her spine.
Minella and an attorney for the family of Patscheck told Denver7 in June they questioned why the shooting happened, as Minella claimed the vehicle belonged to a friend of theirs and that she and Patscheck were merely hanging out at a friend’s driveway that morning.
But the shooting review released Friday says the woman who the car actually belonged to told police she’d never seen Patscheck before when she was shown a photo of him.
The attorney, Birk Baumgartner, had also wondered how the car had been “driven aggressively” toward officers.
But the shooting report says that all four officers involved in the incident gave the same story that Patscheck had reversed the car toward Sergeant Gardner and that they shot at him because they feared he would be run over or pinned against a wall by the car.
In all, according to the investigation, Patscheck’s autopsy showed he was hit eight times, while Minella was struck once. The coroner also found methamphetamine, morphine and fentanyl in Patscheck’s system, which the report said led him to believe Patscheck had “used heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl prior to his death.” Officers also found drugs and paraphernalia in the car, according to the report.
Young wrote in his review that the officers used force in accordance with state law since they feared the sergeant would be hit by the vehicle.
“There is no evidence to ontradict the suggestion that the officers used a reasonable amount of force. When Mr. Patscheck chose to operate the Honda in a manner that posed a clear threat to the officers, there is no basis for which to conclude that a lesser degree of force was necessary,” Young wrote in the report.
He also found that Minella was not a target in the shooting but was struck when the officers used justified force against Patscheck.
“The prosecution cannot prove that any of the officer’s actions of pulling the trigger and accidentally injuring Ms. Minella was not justified in self-defense due to the actions of Mr. Patscheck,” Young wrote.
The attorney representing Minella’s family has not yet reviewed the report, but is in the process of doing so. It’s unclear how they will proceed.