In January, seventeen-year-old Jessie Hernandez was killed by police while she was behind the wheel of a stolen car.
Are those upset by this act displaying their anger by stealing more cars?
That's the assertion of the Westminster Police Department, whose spokesman says evidence exists to suggest that a big bump in auto theft in north-metro suburbs is associated with a group that's swiping cars as an unusual form of police protest.
As we've reported, police are said to have been called to 2521 Newport Street early Monday, January 26, on a report of a suspicious vehicle; apparently, the occupants were playing music loudly. Officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Greene responded, and shortly thereafter, Hernandez was shot and killed, with Jordan suffering a broken leg.
A witness insists that Jordan was struck by the car driven by Hernandez after triggers were pulled, not before. And while police have disputed such claims, Denver Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell has used the incident as a pretext to reexamine Denver police policy about shooting at moving vehicles.
In the days and weeks after Hernandez died, numerous rallies were staged in her honor, and even though the story has faded from the headlines in recent months, her supporters remain plenty passionate about the case.
Note that new posts continue to pop up regularly on the Justice for Jessie Hernandez Facebook page, including photo tributes like this one....
...as well as links to stories about the case, including a Counter Current News item arguing that Hernandez's autopsy proves she wasn't trying to run down the officers when they opened fire on her.
We've included the autopsy below. It indicates that she was shot four times (twice in the left side of her chest, once in her right thigh and once in her pelvis) from the driver's side of the vehicle — meaning, her family's attorney says, that the car was passing by the cops when they pulled triggers, not coming straight at them.
Also on the page are photos that capture the frustration felt by Hernandez's friend, family and loved ones, especially when it comes to law enforcement. Here's an example:
But are some of those upset about Hernandez's death eschewing placards and signs in favor of car thefts? That's what Westminster PD spokeswoman Cheri Spottke is telling CBS4.
According to Spottke, 126 cars have been stolen in Westminster and Thornton thus far in 2015, as compared to seventy during the same period last year.
Moreover, she says some of the suspects taken into custody for the crimes have been targeting a specific make and model of car. The vehicles are typically swiped, then abandoned without any damage being done.
The WPD isn't saying what kinds of cars are being singled out for these joy rides — but Hernandez was behind the wheel of a silver Honda when she was killed.
“This is a way to say, ‘Hey, let’s throw an egg in law enforcement’s face, we’ve stole over however many’ but the message I want to get out is we are also making arrests,” Spottke tells the station. “We can only go based on what people tell us. Some of the people we have arrested, that’s the indication that they’re giving us.”
Look below to see the CBS4 report, followed by Hernandez's autopsy.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.