August 1, 2023
WELD COUNTY, Colo. – A Colorado police officer was convicted on Friday of reckless endangerment and assault after a woman who was arrested and placed in the rear seat of a police unit was seriously injured as the vehicle was then struck by a train. The officer was acquitted of a felony charge, according to the Associated Press.
Jordan Steinke, a police officer with the Fort Lupton Police Department in Colorado, insisted she did not mean to hurt the arrestee, identified as Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, who was in a patrol vehicle when it was demolished by the freight train September 16, 2022.
However, Steinke’s testimony was incriminatory as it related to the misdemeanor charges. She acknowledged seeing the railroad tracks during the felony car stop, but didn’t properly “perceive” the danger as she was focused on the detention and subsequent investigation, Law&Crime reported.
Judge Timothy Kerns, who presided over the bench trial, acquitted Steinke of a felony charge of criminal attempt to commit manslaughter.
“There’s no reasonable doubt that placing a handcuffed person in the back of a patrol car, parked on railroad tracks, creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm by the train,” said Judge Kerns.
Nevertheless, there was insufficient evidence to convince Kerns that Steinke “knowingly intended to harm Ms. Rios-Gonzalez,” particularly since the officer demonstrated “shock and remorse” after the horrific crash.
Rios-Gonzalez suffered several serious injuries, including broken bones, a punctured lung, a traumatic brain injury, and amnesia, defense lawyers in her criminal case said. She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor menacing in exchange for avoiding jail under a deferred sentence, according to The Denver Post.
Steinke still works for Fort Lupton police as of Friday, the City Clerk Mari Peña told Law&Crime. She is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 15 and has a maximum exposure of 18 months for the assault charge and six months for reckless endangerment.
Sgt. Pablo Vazquez of the Platteville Police Department was also charged with several counts related to reckless endangerment. His case remains ongoing.
Law Officer article, November 9, 2022
FORT LUPTON, Colo. – Two police officers in Colorado will face criminal charges after a 20-year-old woman was seriously injured in September when she was struck by a train while handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol SUV stopped on a railroad crossing.
Jordan Steinke of the Fort Lupton Police Department and Pablo Vazquez of the Platteville Police Department had criminal charges filed against them, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday, according to NBC News.
Steinke was charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit manslaughter and one count of second degree assault, both felonies, as well as one count of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor,
Vazquez was charged with five misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment; one count of obstructing highway or other passageway, a petty offense; one count of careless driving, a traffic infraction, and one count of parking where prohibited, also a traffic infraction.
Yareni Rios-Gonzalez’s was seriously injured in the crash. According to her attorney, Jonathan Stine, she sustained a broken arm, fractured ribs, lost teeth, as well as head and leg injuries, NBC reported.
Despite her injuries, she was charged with one count of felony menacing, the district attorney’s office said.
Steinke and Vazquez were issued a notice to appear in court to face the charges, according to the DA’s office.
Rios-Gonzalez was also issued summons to appear in court.
Law Officer article, September 23, 2022
FORT LUPTON, Colo. – New video released by the Fort Lupton Police Department on Friday shows the moment aon Sept. 16.
The police unit remained on railroad tracks following an incident with a woman in police custody in the back seat when the vehicle was struck. She survived the horrific wreck and has been in the hospital with serious injuries since the crash, CBS Colorado reported.
The incident began when officers of both the Platteville Police Department and Fort Lupton Police Department responded to a reported road rage incident involving a person with a gun on Highway 85.
Platteville officers found the vehicle being operated by 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez of Greeley. A felony car stop occurred at US 85 and County Road 36, according to 9 News.
The high-risk traffic stop occurred with the first unit stopped on the railroad tracks. Then, Fort Lupton officers showed up, and together, they conducted the take down.
The edited 8-minute video showed the officers approach of the vehicle Rio-Gonzalez was driving, the moment of the crash and moments that took place afterward, according to CBS Colorado.
Rios-Gonzalez, who works as a TSA agent, is conscious and able to talk. She suffered nine broken ribs, a fractured sternum, a broken arm and numerous other injuries to her head, back and legs, her attorney, Paul Wilkinson said.
“She’s definitely upset about what happened. She doesn’t understand why she was left in the car. She was yelling to get their attention and could see the train coming,” Wilkinson said.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Colorado State Patrol are investigating the collision while Fort Lupton Police are investigating the road rage case prior to the crash.
The Fort Lupton Police Department has submitted a felony summons against the woman with the Weld County District Attorney for review.
It’s unclear what evidence was obtained prior to the train crash.
“Our intake attorney will be looking at it to determine if charges will be filed,” an office administrator for the district attorney said via email, according to 9 News.
However, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office told the news outlet earlier in the week that it would also review potential charges against police in the case.