Family of Jessica Hernandez asks DOJ to conduct civil rights investigation into her death

DENVER - Family of the teenager shot dead by Denver Police on Monday are calling for the United States Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation.

The incident has already sparked two reviews of Denver Police Department policy for discharging firearms at moving vehicles and the standard review by the District Attorney's Office after a fatal officer-involved shooting. The ACLU is also closely following the case, attending police press briefings on the subject.

Police say the 17-year-old, Jessica "Jessie" Hernandez, was driving a stolen car early Monday in an alley near the intersection of 25th and Niagara. She was confronted by 16-year-veteran Officer Daniel Greene and 9-year-veteran Officer Gabriel Jordan.

Originally, police said the car hit one of the two officers. Thursday, Police Chief Robert White confirmed Officer Jordan suffered a fractured leg in the incident but said that how it happened was still part of the investigation.

Both officers opened fire on the car, killing Hernandez. The other teenagers inside were not hurt and they are not being charged.

Meanwhile, court records show the Colorado State Patrol ticketed Hernandez on New Year's Day for speeding 25-to-39 mph over the posted limit, eluding a police officer, resisting arrest and driving under restraint in the Commerce City area. A misdemeanor driving under restraint charge indicates she'd had her license suspended for a prior traffic violation.

A state trooper issued her a summons for the alleged driving and resisting arrest violations. She was scheduled to appear for arrangement in Adams County Court on Feb. 10. The district attorney dismissed the case on Friday.

The teen's family is calling for the federal government to investigate the deadly police shooting.

"As we mourn the devastating loss of our beloved daughter Jessica Hernández, we seek justice for her tragic and senseless death," the family said in statement emailed to the media on Friday.

Chief White held a press conference Thursday, in which he asked for patience as the shooting is investigated and the department reevaluates the related policies.

"I feel very comfortable with the commitment and the integrity of the police department to investigate it," he said.

"We are aware of the DPD's history of conducting lengthy and fruitless investigations that serve only to exonerate its officers," the family statement also said. "We are dismayed that the DPD has already defended the actions of the officers and blamed our daughter for her own death, even while admitting they have very little information."

The family's statement references recent controversial police shootings and other actions that sparked nationwide protests and racial tensions. In that context, they say, this shooting deserves the federal attention of a civil rights investigation.

"In recent months, police killings have torn apart communities across this nation, and the unjustified shooting of our daughter is only the latest sign of an issue that requires federal oversight," they wrote.

Hernandez's mother has also said she wants an independent autopsy to be conducted. 


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