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Denver Officers Cleared In Deadly Shooting Of Teen

DENVER (CBS4)- Two Denver Police officers will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting death of a teenager in January.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said the officers were justified in the shooting death of Jessie Hernandez. She was driving a stolen vehicle at the time.

Investigators said Hernandez, 17, ignored orders to stop driving and drove dangerously close to the officers.

A portion of the DA's decision letter speaks to those actions: "...the facts of this investigation show that Officer Jordan and Officer Greene were
lawfully doing their jobs that morning, and they gave lawful orders to Hernandez to stop and to get out of that car. This begs the question of why Hernandez chose to not comply with those orders. Perhaps she feared being caught driving a stolen car. Perhaps her judgement was impaired by marijuana and alcohol. We can draw these inferences from the facts.

However, what is clear from the facts and needs no inference, is that her decisions created a very dangerous situation -- not just to herself and to the officers, but also to her friends who were in the car with her. Fortunately, none of them were injured or killed.

If there is one message I hope our community understands from this case, it is that this shooting was completely preventable. It would not have occurred if Hernandez had simply complied with lawful police orders."

The autopsy showed Hernandez suffered four gunshot wounds to the torso, pelvis and thigh. But it's not clear how many times she was shot, as the autopsy notes that two of the wounds might have been caused by a single bullet.

Shooting scene jessie hernandez
The alley where Jessie Hernandez was shot and killed (credit: CBS)

The Denver medical examiner's office said Hernandez also had marijuana and a small amount of alcohol in her system during the Jan. 26 shooting that sparked protests and calls for an outside investigation.

Denver police Chief Robert White has said the officers found Hernandez and four other teenagers inside the stolen car in an alley on Jan. 26. White said the officers told the teens several times to get out of the vehicle. Officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Greene fired when Hernandez drove toward one of them.

The Hernandez family released a statement regarding the DA's decision that reads in part: The Hernandez family is unsurprised but profoundly disappointed by the Denver District Attorney's decision to exonerate the officers who killed their beloved Jessie on January 26, 2015. As has been the case since 1992, a Denver police officer can apparently shoot and kill members of the community without criminal consequences. According to the Denver District Attorney, an officer only has to claim fear of injury to justify taking a life. This report is a reminder that the Denver District Attorney's Office operates as a guardian of the Denver Police Department.

District Attorney Morrissey is correct that Jessie's death was preventable. She would not have died if Denver's policies and training required its officers to act within the bounds of the United States Constitution and national best practices. Jessie and her friends were placed in danger by Denver Police officers' decision to employ unnecessary deadly force as a matter of first resort. Denver refuses to take responsibility for its officers' excessive and unreasonable conduct, and instead has once again blamed Jessie for her own death.

The Denver Police released this statement regarding the DA's decision: The Denver Police Department (DPD) is aware of the outcome of the Denver District Attorney's investigation into the incident where 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez was shot by Denver Police officers. We ask the community to review the shoot letter for a full understanding into the events, which occurred on January 26, 2015.

Now that DPD's Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) has received the DA's decision letter, it will proceed with the administrative review of the case. Once the administrative review is final, the releasable documents will be made available to the public. Additionally, Denver Police continue to review the policy and training of potential lethal force encounters involving persons in motor vehicles. This policy and training review, which has been ongoing, is expected to be completed within two weeks.

The ACLU released this statement regarding the decision: In what has become a disturbingly predictable pattern, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has once again refused to bring charges against Denver law enforcement officers following a police-involved killing, in this case the January 26th shooting of 17-year-old Jessie Hernandez.

Beyond the obvious questions about conflict of interest, it is impossible to trust the objectivity of Mr. Morrissey, given that he has not filed a single indictment following an officer-involved shooting during his tenure as District Attorney.

In 2011, the ACLU of Colorado called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Denver Police Department's 'pattern and practice' of using excessive force and violating the civil rights of Denver residents. We once again renew that call today.

A full independent review is necessary, now more than ever, as the community has lost its faith in Denver's ability to hold police accountable in use-of-force cases.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued this statement: This was a tragic event for the Hernandez family, the police officers involved in this incident, and our entire community. I ask everyone to review the District Attorney's letter for a complete explanation of what happened that day, and I remain committed to the fair and thorough process and conduct review now underway by DPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, with oversight from the Department of Safety and Office of the Independent Monitor.

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