Mother wants independent autopsy after Denver police killed 17-year-old daughter: "The Monday shooting of Jessica Hernandez was the fourth time in seven months that a Denver officer fired at a vehicle after perceiving it as a threat."
The mother of a 17-year-old girl who was shot and killed by Denver police said Wednesday she wants a second, independent autopsy because she doesn’t trust the official investigation.
The demand by Laura Sonya Rosales Hernandez came as the Denver Police Department and an independent city official who monitors the agency disclosed that separate investigations were under way into policies regarding officers shooting at moving vehicles.
The Monday shooting of Jessica Hernandez was the fourth time in seven months that a Denver officer fired at a vehicle after perceiving it as a threat.
Police have said two officers fired after Hernandez drove a stolen car into one of them. A passenger in the car disputed that account, saying police opened fire before the vehicle struck the officer. Police said none of the five people in the car was armed.
“I want another autopsy on my daughter so we can know how much damage they did,” Hernandez said, speaking in Spanish inside the trailer home where her daughter lived with five siblings.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that officers may not use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect unless the person is believed to pose significant physical harm. Still, policies vary among agencies, and some departments have banned or discouraged the practice.
The Albuquerque Police Department, for example, ordered officers in June to stop shooting at moving vehicles after a Justice Department report found a pattern of excessive force.
The Cleveland Police Department changed its policy before federal investigators concluded its officers too often used unnecessary force.
In Denver, the Police Department and Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell are each looking at how national standards compare to Denver’s policy, which allows officers to fire at moving cars if they have no other reasonable way to prevent death or serious injury.
Denver’s policy urges officers to try to move out of the way rather than fire. “An officer threatened by an oncoming vehicle shall, if feasible, move out of the way rather than discharging a firearm,” it says.
The reviews will look at several cases in which Denver officers fired at cars they considered to be deadly weapons. Those cases include the fatal shooting of Ryan Ronquillo, 21, who officers said tried to hit them with his car outside a funeral home in July.