Families question Northglenn PD in officer-involved shooting that killed man, paralyzed woman

DA still investigating case seven months later
Posted at 8:42 PM, Jun 29, 2018

NORTHGLENN, Colo. -- Police killed the love of her life and nearly killed her too. Now, the near-paralyzed woman and her family say the Northglenn Police Department still has not given them a straight answer about the officers' decision to open fire months ago.

The families of both Jeremy Patscheck and Serina Minella are both angered and saddened. The District Attorney in Adams County told Contact7 Investigates he's still reviewing the case to determine if the shooting was justified, which is a standard procedure.

Patscheck died in the shooting on Dec. 13 in a Northglenn neighborhood. Minella survived, but is paralyzed from the neck down.

"It's like a dream. It's a little fuzzy, but I remember," Minella said in an interview with Contact7 Investigates from her hospital bed in Aurora. "Some days I wake up and I don't remember what happened.  And then it all floods in."

Minella said she and Patscheck, her longtime boyfriend, were hanging out with a friend the early Wednesday morning of the shooting. She said after a while they had an encounter with Northglenn officers that will forever haunt her.

"And -- they started shooting," she said.  "The last thing I remember is saying 'No.'"

Neighbors said they heard five or six shots, but there are different accounts of what led to the shooting; Minella's story is entirely different than what Northglenn officers told the public.

According to Northglenn, officers said they spotted a stolen vehicle and attempted to make contact with its occupants when the vehicle sped toward them in the driveway of a Northglenn home. So, they opened fire.

According to Minella, the vehicle belongs to a friend of a friend and they were in the driveway of another friend's home. She said officers never once announced their presence outside the vehicle before they started shooting.

"We were in the driveway parked," she said.  "[The car] wasn't even on."

Doctors gave Minella's family a grim prognosis. It was unclear if she would ever awake from a near-vegetative state she was in for weeks.

"The police are supposed to protect us," Minella said.  "And that's not protection."

"What we have seen, I think, is revealing," attorney Birk Baumgartner said in an interview with Contact7 Investigates. He's working with Minella's parents and the Patscheck family to investigate the shooting and pursue possible litigation against Northglenn police.

He points to video aired on Denver7 and other news outlets the day of the shooting where it's evident the possibly stolen vehicle was still in the driveway with a police vehicle essentially pressed against the vehicle's rear bumper.

He also points to the shots -- fired through the vehicle's windows, largely, which hit Minella in the front passenger seat and Patscheck in the driver's seat.

"How is it possible that this car was being driven aggressively towards officers?" Baumgartner asks.

The question remains unanswered because District Attorney Dave Young said his office is still reviewing the case. Because of that, Northglenn police will not say anything about the case or release any public records related to it.

"I cannot imagine a justification for shooting a passenger, in a car that has been immobilized, two or three times in the back," Baumgartner said.

Contact7 Investigates obtained a copy of the Northglenn Police Department's use-of-force policy for situations like these. It says, in part:

"Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle are rarely effective.  Officers should move out of the path of an approaching vehicle ... An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others."

Contact7 also reviewed Patscheck's background and noted he had a history with police including a handful of convictions for having a controlled substance.

Nonetheless, there's no record of a weapon being in the vehicle at the time of the officer-involved shooting. Patscheck's siblings said that's about all they've learned since Contact7 first spoke with them over the winter.

Minella's family is equally frustrated because they said Northglenn officers left them in the dark in the beginning too, by not telling them where their daughter was taken after the shooting.

"I had to hunt my daughter down laying in a hospital bed, on her death bed, to find out what kind of condition she's in," said Kevin McNerney, Minella's father.

The families wanted answers the day of the shooting and still do now.

"I've always been very pro-police," Minella's stepmother Donna Parker said. "I've always been very supportive of our law enforcement. But what's scary is this happened to our children."

"He, he didn't deserve this," Melanie Shelton, Patscheck's mother said.

Minella is the one who wants and needs closure the most.

"He was more than just my boyfriend. He was my best friend," she said of Patscheck as the heart monitors in her hospital room began sounding an alarm. "No matter what anybody thinks or says, he was a really good person."

The District Attorney was unable to say when his office would wrap its investigation of the shooting.