Teen killed by police previously cited for resisting arrest

Denver Police Department Chief Robert White responds to questions during a news conference in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015
Denver Police Department Chief Robert White responds to questions during a news conference in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — 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 just 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on Jan. 1 for speeding down a highway north of Denver in her mother’s car after the girl’s driver’s license had been revoked.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.

Laura Hernandez talks with reporters in her Thornton, Colo., home on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, about the death of her 17-year-old daughter Jessica
Laura Hernandez talks with reporters in her Thornton, Colo., home on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, about the death of her 17-year-old daughter Jessica (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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