The mother of a 17-year-old girl who was shot and killed by Denver police said Wednesday that she wants a second, independent autopsy because she doesn't trust the official investigation into the death of her daughter.
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 underway 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, 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. "I want to know, how did this happen? I want to know everything."
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. Albuquerque and Cleveland police have ordered officers not to shoot at moving vehicles.
Denver Police allows officers to fire at moving cars if they have no other reasonable way to prevent death or serious injury — but it urges officers 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. It also says that incapacitating a driver may create a more dangerous situation.
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. Prosecutors have declined to file charges in that case.