Jessie Hernandez Shooting: New Protest, Past Record, More People Shot by Cops in Cars

One of many tributes to Jessie Hernandez popping up on social media. More photos and videos below.
One of many tributes to Jessie Hernandez popping up on social media. More photos and videos below.
Facebook via voanoticias.com

Update: Developments continue to collect in the case of Jessie Hernandez, a seventeen-year-old killed by Denver police officers while she was in a stolen car; see our previous coverage below. Another protest took place, this time at a police station, even as information surfaced about Hernandez's previous run-ins with the law. Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department is sharing its current standards for shooting into a vehicle, and new attention is being sought in a little-publicized case that also involved a driver shot by officers.

See also: Jessie Hernandez, Teen Killed By Denver Cops: Protests Over Alleged Police Violence

The scene at last night's protest.
The scene at last night's protest.

The protest at the District 2 police station was loud and passionate, with demonstrators decrying the decision of officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Greene to open fire on Hernandez, who was in a stolen car with four others.

As we've reported, police are said to have been called to the scene at 2521 Newport Street early Monday, January 26, on a report of a suspicious vehicle; apparently, the occupants were playing music loudly. Police say shots were fired only after Hernandez drove into Jordan, breaking his leg; a witness insists that the officer was hit after triggers were pulled, not before.

Now, Hernandez's mother is speaking out, telling 7News she wants an independent autopsy in the case, but conceding to 9News that her daughter had recently gotten out of jail and had previously been accused of car theft.

A Facebook photo of Jessie Hernandez.
A Facebook photo of Jessie Hernandez.
Facebook via New York Daily News

Hernandez's record aside, the DPD has taken heat over its policy toward shooting into a vehicle. Some departments across the country have outlawed this practice, but Denver allows it under extreme circumstances, as documented in our previous coverage below. However, Denver police reps have now shared the policy in its entirety. Here it is:

Moving vehicles

a. Firing at moving vehicles: Firing at a moving vehicle may have very little impact on stopping the vehicle. Disabling the driver may result in an uncontrolled vehicle, and the likelihood of injury to occupants of the vehicle (who may not be involved in the crime) may be increased when the vehicle is either out of control or shots are fired into the passenger compartment. An officer threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall, if feasible, move out of the way rather than discharging a firearm. Officer(s) shall not discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupant(s) in response to a threat posed solely by the vehicle unless the officer has an objectively reasonable belief that:

1. The vehicle or suspect poses an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person and

2. The officer has no reasonable alternative course of action to prevent death or serious physical injury.

b. Firing from a moving vehicle: Accuracy may be severely impacted when firing from a moving vehicle, and firing from a moving vehicle may increase the risk of harm to officers or other citizens. Officers should not fire from a moving vehicle except in self defense or defense of another from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.

(6) Above all, the safety of the public and the officer must be the overriding concern when the use of force is considered.

A Facebook photo of Ryan Ronquillo.
A Facebook photo of Ryan Ronquillo.
File photo

Upcoming Events

Despite the admonitions to make shooting into a vehicle a last resort, similar incidents have happened several times over the past year in the Denver area. The most prominent case involves Ryan Ronquillo, who was shot and killed by police in July 2014 at a funeral home, where he was planning to attend the viewing of a deceased friend.

Ronquillo was also driving a stolen car, and police say he hit several vehicles before driving straight at them. The Denver District Attorney's Office ruled that the shooting of Ronquillo was justified, even though his friends and family considered what took place murder.

Far less attention has been paid to the shooting of Sharod Kindell, whose cause has been taken up by Denver Anarchist Black Cross. In conjunction with last night's protest, the DABC is sharing the following photo of Kindell....

...and this account of what happened to him earlier this month:

According to folks who were on the scene; On January 9th at 7:45 pm Sharod was pulled up on by the police and when police began detaining him he asked them "what have I done? I know my rights." It is then alleged that the cops immediately reached into his car and opened the door and pulled him out of his car. At the time the car was in reverse and when he was pulled out of his car the car hit an officer and they are charging him with assaulting the police.

According to eyewitness testimony upon surrendering he was shot 4 times and over 12 shots were heard. He was surrendering with his hands up. Once through the palm, once in the arm, once in the groin(this wound remains open and oozing) and once in the leg (his femoral artery was hit and he almost bled out). He spent a very short time at Denver Health before they released him to the jail where he has sat in solitary ever since. He is in serious pain and needs medication. His family is requesting that we wage a call-in campaign against the jail and demand that he get medication for the pain he is in and better conditions.

DAM Collective has posted a video further describing Kindell's situation. It's followed by new reports from Fox31 and CBS4 and our previous coverage, including a photo of Officer Gabriel Jordan.

Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos, videos and more.  

A 2008 photo of Officer Gabriel Jordan. More images and video below.
A 2008 photo of Officer Gabriel Jordan. More images and video below.
Westword file photo by Mark Mangers

Update: The Denver Police Department has released the names of the two officers currently on administrative leave for their role in the shooting of seventeen-year-old Jessie Hernandez. They are Officer Daniel Greene, a sixteen-year veteran, and Officer Gabriel Jordan, who's been with the DPD for nine years -- and was featured in a 2008 Westword article about cops and moonlighting jobs. At the time, Jordan was working security on the side at the Ogden Theatre.

Below, see the DPD release naming the officers and addressing other developments. That's followed by our previous coverage.

Denver Police Department release:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - As a follow up to the officer involved shooting that occurred on Monday, January 26, 2015, near the 2500 block of Niagara, Denver Police Chief Robert White issues the following statement:

The Denver Police Department, the Denver District Attorney's Office and the Independent Monitor are conducting a thorough investigation into the officer involved shooting that involved Jessica Hernandez.

Although we are still determining the facts of the incident, the Denver Police Department is committed to transparency and once the investigation is complete all information obtained during the investigation will be available for the public to review....

We are also aware that the Independent Monitor has stated his office will evaluate the policy regarding the discharge of firearms at moving vehicles, and we have invited him to join the comprehensive review of the policy that is already underway at the direction of Executive Director of Public Safety Stephanie O'Malley. We welcome any input that can improve the way we serve our community and that will help everyone get home safely.

The Officers involved in Monday's shooting are: Daniel Greene (16 year veteran); Gabriel Jordan (9 year veteran), both are assigned as Patrol Officers in District 2. Both officers are currently on administrative leave.

A Facebook photo of Jessie Hernandez. More images and videos below.
A Facebook photo of Jessie Hernandez. More images and videos below.
Facebook via Heavy.com

Original pot, 5:53 a.m. January 28: The fatal police shooting of teenager Jessie Hernandez while she was behind the wheel of a car reported stolen has renewed debate about when officers' use of lethal force is justified. Now, following another day of protests and vigils, the Office of the Independent Monitor is pledging to review police policy in such cases -- and a witness has come forward claiming the cops opened fire before one of them was hit by the car driven by Hernandez, not afterward.

An overhead view of the crash site.
An overhead view of the crash site.

As we've reported, the incident took place around 6:30 a.m. on Monday, January 26, at 2521 Newpot Street in Park Hill. Police are said to have been called about a "suspicious" vehicle -- one driven by Hernandez, now reported to have been seventeen (earlier, her age was put at sixteen), and containing several other young people. As the cops moved in, one of the officers was reportedly struck in the leg by the car -- after which the bullets flew.

The first official Denver Police Department communication came via this tweet:

A followup tweet added:

Debate among community members, as reflected in the hundreds of comments that collected on our post, pivoted in part on Hernandez's alleged use of the car as a lethal weapon, thereby justifying the officers' decision to fire in the minds of many observers. But a witness has now told 9News that the shots came before the officer was hit -- and the car only struck him, breaking his leg, after Hernandez suffered her fatal wound.

We've included the 9News report on the second page of this post, owing to the station's insistence on using embeds in auto-play mode.

Supporters of Jessica Hernandez inside the Denver District Attorney's Office.
Supporters of Jessica Hernandez inside the Denver District Attorney's Office.
YouTube

Meanwhile, supporters of Hernandez, many of whom gathered at a vigil the night she died, arrived in force at the Denver District Attorney's Office Tuesday morning.

They demanded that the officers involved, both of whom are on administrative leave (as is standard procedure in such cases), be charged with crimes in the shooting.

That's unlikely. As noted by Fox31, it's been over two decades since a Denver District Attorney has prosecuted a police officer for a shooting that took place in the line of duty. But Nicholas Mitchell, the Independent Monitor tasked with overseeing law-enforcement activities in Denver, has announced that he will examine the policy pertaining to shooting at cars in motion. His statement reads:

Over the last seven months, there have been four officer-involved shootings involving Denver police officers shooting at moving vehicles. Shootings involving moving vehicles pose unique potential safety risks to both officers and the community. Today, the Office of the Independent Monitor is launching an in-depth evaluation of this issue. This evaluation will assess the current state of the DPD's policies, practices, and training on shooting at moving vehicles in comparison to national standards and best practices from other police departments in the United States. I look forward to collaborating with the DPD and the community, and reporting back on this effort.

Another photo of Jessie Hernandez.
Another photo of Jessie Hernandez.
Facebook via 9News

Debate over the such policies has heated up in recent years, as documented by the AELE Law Journal in 2010. An excerpt from the piece notes the competing concerns at the heart of the issue:

Some high profile cases in which vehicle drivers or passengers have died or suffered substantial injuries have resulted in large civil liability awards or settlements, such as the $7 million settlement in the Sean Bell case in New York. On the other hand, there certainly have also been instances in which police officers have been seriously injured or even killed by an oncoming vehicle either ignoring the officer's orders to halt or even intentionally targeting the officer for harm, using the vehicle as a weapon. Indeed, in the Sean Bell case, one of the officers was, in fact, struck by the vehicle driven by Bell.

Nonetheless, numerous departments across the country have established rules prohibiting officers from shooting at a moving vehicle. Here's the approach established by the Los Angeles Police Department:

Loved ones of Jessie Hernandez speak to DAM Collective at yesterday's DA's office protest.
Loved ones of Jessie Hernandez speak to DAM Collective at yesterday's DA's office protest.

Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle. For the purposes of this Section, the moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer's use of deadly force. An officer threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.

A linked AELE fact sheet lays out the policies at different departments across the country. We've included that information below, following the 9News piece. But the one for Denver is shorthanded as follows: "Officers may not fire at or from moving vehicles 'except in self-defense or defense of another from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.'"

Continue for a report from Fox31 and two clips of the activities in the DA's office, the first from DAM Collective, the second from Conscious Connection. Then, on page two, find the auto-play 9News piece and information about police polices for shooting at vehicles in municipalities across the country, courtesy of AELE Law Journal.

Fox31

Continue for another video about the Jessie Hernandez shooting and information about policies at municipalities across the country concerning police and moving vehicles.   Here's the 9News piece, which is in auto-play mode.

And here's the AELE Law Journal text about policies for shooting at vehicles in several cities across the country as of 2005, the date of the item's compilation.

Prohibitions or restrictions on shooting at a motor vehicle

Chicago

Policy: "Firing at or into a moving vehicle is only authorized to prevent death or great bodily harm to the sworn member or another person. When confronted with an oncoming vehicle, and that vehicle is the only force used against them, sworn members will move out of the vehicle's path."

Degree of restrictiveness: High

Date: October 2000

What prompted it: The fatal shootings of unarmed motorists LaTanya Haggerty and Robert Russ after police chases in 1999. Both vehicles were at a stop when the shootings occurred.

Effect: Both pursuits and motorist shootings have declined, according to a police spokesman.

Cincinnati

Policy: "Officers shall not discharge their firearms at a moving vehicle or its occupants unless the occupants are using deadly force against the officer or another person present, by means other than the vehicle."

Degree of restrictiveness: High

Date: October 1999

What prompted it: An officer shot and wounded shoplifting suspect Timothy Blair, whose out-of-control car seriously injured 5-year-old Donald Bush III in 1998. In March 1999, drug suspect Michael Carpenter was shot and killed as he drove away from an officer trying to pull him from his car.

Effect: Police have not fired at a moving vehicle since the policy went into effect, according to a spokesman.

Denver

Policy: Officers may not fire at or from moving vehicles "except in self-defense or defense of another from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force."

Degree of restrictiveness: Medium

Date: September 2004

What prompted it: Broader changes in the department's use-of-force policies as part of a lawsuit settlement in the shooting of a developmentally disabled teenager. From 1990 to 2000, four of the five officers disciplined in shootings had fired at motorists.

Effect: A Denver police officer fired at a vehicle in December as it drove toward her, according to police. No one was injured.

Detroit

Policy: "[Officers cannot fire] at or from a moving vehicle."

Degree of restrictiveness: High

Date: July 2003

What prompted it: Detroit entered into a federal consent decree with the Justice Department in July 2003 to update its use-of-force policies after several police shootings. The Detroit Free Press found in 2000 that the city had the nation's highest rate of fatal officer-involved shootings, 1.5 times L.A.'s rate.

Effect: None. The department has not yet adopted a new use-of-force policy.

Houston

Policy: The department "does not prohibit an officer from shooting at a vehicle," according to a spokesman. The department's long-standing policy states that an officer "will not justify the use of deadly force" by intentionally placing themselves in front of a moving vehicle.

Degree of restrictiveness: Low

Effect: A Houston Chronicle investigation found that the city's police officers shot 14 motorists from 1999 to 2004. In the same period, the Harris County Sheriff's Department shot 22 motorists, 19 of them unarmed. Harris County revised its use-of-force policy in July 2004 to restrict shooting at moving vehicles.

Los Angeles P.D.

Policy: "Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other [emphasis in original] than the vehicle .... An officer threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants."

Degree of restrictiveness: High

Date: Feb. 16, 2005 Click here to open the full LAPD policy. [PDF]

What prompted it: The fatal shooting Feb. 6 of Devin Brown, an unarmed 13-year-old who allegedly tried to run down an officer.

Effect: LAPD officers shot and wounded an unarmed robbery suspect as he backed toward them last week, the second time police had fired into a moving vehicle under the new policy.

Portland, Ore.

Policy: "A member justified in using deadly physical force may shoot at, or from, a moving vehicle if, in the totality of the situation, the additional risks are clearly outweighed by the need to use deadly physical force."

Degree of restrictiveness: Low

Date: A new policy generally forbidding officers to shoot at moving vehicles is under consideration.

What's prompting it: A review of officer-involved shootings was underway when a police officer killed driver Kendra James as she attempted to flee a traffic stop in 2003, prompting a $10-million civil-rights lawsuit. In March 2004, police killed motorist James Perez in a traffic stop.

Effect: None. The department has not yet adopted a new use-of-force policy.

San Diego

Policy: "Firearms may be fired at the driver or other occupant of a vehicle only when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or others, and the use of deadly force does not create a danger to the public."

Degree of restrictiveness: Medium

Date: March 2004

What prompted it: The revision did not respond to a specific incident involving a moving vehicle, but was part of an effort to reduce all officer-involved shootings, which in the late 1990s were among the highest in the state.

Effect: Police shootings have fallen significantly since reforms started.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.


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