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Teen Killed By Police Previously Cited For Resisting Arrest

DENVER (AP/CBS4) — A 17-year-old girl who was shot to death by Denver police while driving a stolen car was accused in a separate incident of eluding a police officer and resisting arrest three weeks before her death, court records obtained Friday show.

State troopers cited Jessica Hernandez on Jan. 1 for speeding down a highway north of Denver in her mother's car after the girl's driver's license had been revoked.

The citation shows Hernandez was driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone, and the trooper noted that she was resisting arrest in a way that risked serious injury to him or others. It does not provide other details of the case.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis would not comment on the case. Hernandez's uncle, Alberto Hernandez, referred questions to an attorney who did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Court records show the Adams County district attorney's office had the citation dismissed after Hernandez died.

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Police say Hernandez was shot on Monday after she drove a stolen car toward an officer in a residential alley in Denver. The killing came amid a national debate about police use of force sparked by incidents in Missouri and New York.

The Denver shooting also brought protests and a demand for a special prosecutor. On Friday, Hernandez's family called for a federal civil rights investigation into her death.

In a statement released in English and Spanish, Hernandez's parents said they want the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate her death, and for U.S. Attorney John Walsh in Colorado to oversee the criminal investigation of the officers involved.

The family said it doesn't trust Denver police to conduct a fair and timely investigation, and that the department has a history of exonerating its officers.

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

Walsh's spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Walsh was aware of the request but declined further comment.

The statement came after the parents retained lawyer Qusair Mohamedbhai, who has been involved in a number of other high-profile civil rights cases against Denver police and sheriff's deputies.

Mohamedbhai represented a former Denver jail inmate to whom the city paid $3.3 million in July to settle a jail abuse lawsuit.

The allegations in the lawsuit filed by Jamal Hunter were so egregious they prompted a federal judge to request a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the city's police and the sheriff's departments.

Dorschner also declined to comment on that request.

In the shooting of Hernandez, Police Chief Robert White has said the two officers repeatedly told her and four other teens to get out of the stolen car.

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White said Thursday an officer might have been injured trying to get out of the way of the vehicle. He initially said the two officers opened fire after one was struck by the car. The incident remained under investigation.

A passenger in the car, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, has disputed that account, saying the officers did not yell commands before they shot Hernandez through the driver's side window.

White said it's too soon to judge whether Officers Daniel Greene and Gabriel Jordan acted appropriately in shooting Hernandez. Jordan suffered a fractured leg.

No one has been charged with the theft of the car, a 2000 Honda Civic that was reported missing Sunday night in Federal Heights.

The shooting was the fourth time in seven months that Denver police have fired at a moving vehicle after perceiving it as a threat.

Department policy encourages officers to move out of the way of a moving car rather than use their firearm. But it also allows them to shoot if they have no other reasonable way to prevent death or serious injury.

The incidents have prompted the department and the city's independent monitor to review policies and training related to such shootings.

Additional Information

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday released a statement saying he's committed to a fair and just process.

"The death of Jessica Hernandez is tragic, and my prayers are with the young woman's family members and friends during their time of mourning. My thoughts are also with the police officers who were involved in this incident. This is difficult for our entire community. Let us summon our collective compassion and work together to heal the pain of such a heartbreaking loss.

"In the coming weeks, we can expect to hear a number of accounts of what happened in that alley. I encourage everyone to allow for a thorough investigation so that we can understand all the facts. Yes, that will take time. And yes, it is the right thing to do.

"In the coming weeks, we can expect to hear a number of accounts of what happened in that alley. I encourage everyone to allow for a thorough investigation so that we can understand all the facts. Yes, that will take time. And yes, it is the right thing to do.

"I commit this city's efforts to fairly and justly address this incident. As is protocol, the officers have been placed on administrative leave while the Denver District Attorney's Office reviews the case to determine if it will bring criminal charges. Following, the Denver Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau, with direct oversight from the Department of Safety and OIM, will conduct an investigation into the case to determine if disciplinary action is warranted. The Police Department, Department of Safety and OIM are also reviewing policies, procedures and training on shooting at moving vehicles and make recommended changes, if applicable. Once those steps are complete, the Police Department will publicly release the investigation.

"I would also like to express my support for the proposed code amendment to strengthen the Office of the Independent Monitor's investigatory oversight. I believe this step will result in a more coordinated effort between all our safety departments and lead to better outcomes for all.

"Together, we have forged a stronger relationship between safety officers and residents by being open, honest and accountable. Time and again, my administration has taken swift steps to address critical matters, and I commit no less than that high standard in this case."

By SADIE GURMAN, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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