THE THIN BLUE LINE
DENVER — A Colorado police officer accused of putting a handcuffed woman in a parked police car that was hit by a freight train did not know the car was parked on the tracks, the officer’s lawyer said in court Monday.
While evidence will show Officer Jordan Steinke stood on the railroad tracks during a night traffic stop on Sept. 16, 2022, she did not know that an officer she was assisting had parked his patrol car on the tracks, defense lawyer Mallory Revel said in opening statements in state court in Greeley. The woman inside, Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, suffered extensive injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.
The tracks were completely flush with the road, nothing to trip over, and there were no illuminated crossing signs or gates at the railroad crossing in the rural area, just two reflective signs on either side of the tracks, Revel said. Prosecutors will not be able to prove that she acted recklessly by leaving the woman in the patrol car, Revel said.
Steinke also said she did not notice the tracks or the ground when she squatted down to arrest a kneeling Yareni Rios-Gonzalez after the suspect was ordered out of her pickup truck. The tracks and railroad crossing signs can be seen in her body camera video from the Sept. 16, 2022, incident.
Under prosecution questioning, Steinke said she was unaware it was on the tracks and assumed the suspect was safe there. She didn’t know the train was coming until just before it hit, she added. “I saw the front headlights and heard the train at the same time right before impact,” said Steinke
Rios-Gonzalez survived the crash but was badly hurt, including a traumatic brain injury, and is suing over her treatment. She was arrested after a driver reported that she pointed a gun at him during a road rage incident and later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor menancing, one of her lawyers, Chris Ponce, said.