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Officer who left woman in patrol car struck by train in Platteville sentenced to supervised probation

Platteville train-car crash Sept 16 2022
Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 21:39:18-04

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — The Fort Lupton police officer who in September 2022 placed a detained woman in a parked Platteville police unit that was struck by a train was sentenced to 30 months supervised probation and 100 hours of community service.

Former officer Jordan Steinke in July was found guilty of two misdemeanors: reckless endangerment and third-degree assault and not guilty on a felony charge.

The charges stem from the Sept. 16, 2022 arrest of Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, of Greeley who was placed into a Platteville patrol vehicle while handcuffed near the U.S.Highway 85 and Weld County Road 36 intersection moments before the unit was struck by an oncoming train.

Police were initially pursuing Rios-Gonzalez in connection to a call in Fort Lupton reporting an alleged road rage incident involving a firearm. Rios-Gonzalez previously pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor chargeas Weld County prosecutors dropped the felony charge against her.

Rios-Gonzalez suffered broken ribs, wrists, a punctured lung and traumatic brain injury, among other injuries, according to her attorney.

In Friday’s sentencing hearing, an emotional and remorseful Steinke addressed the court and apologized to Rios-Gonzalez. “What happened to you that night has haunted me for 364 days,” Steinke said. “I remember your cries, your screams. I remember begging you to tell me your name. I never felt so helpless we couldn’t get you out of the car,” she said.

Steinke's attorneys said she had been undergoing therapy had already suffered from being stripped of her law enforcement career.

Steinke, still addressing Rios-Gonzalez, said he hoped to use the incident as a teaching component for law enforcement. "The horror of what I saw and what you went through never leaves me," she said. "Please do not use this experience to hate other police officers. You can blame me and you should. I want to make it really clear to this court, Ms. Rios, her family and anyone else watching — I will make some good out of this, I will educate current and future police officers and anyone who will listen."

Several other character witnesses came forward to speak on behalf of Steinke, including an emotional Michael Jones who is in a relationship with Steinke. Jones, who has a law enforcement background, told the court Steinke was sorry and hoped to use the incident as an opportunity to teach other law enforcement about the dangers surrounding the incident.

Judge Timothy Kerns, who sentenced Steinke, pointed to the fact that there were three officers on scene during the incident and “not one had the awareness to take steps to move that vehicle, or not put Rios-Gonzalez in that vehicle.” Judge Kerns also addressed law enforcement reminding those in the profession of the responsibility they have when placing people under their care. "We have perhaps way too many examples of failings in that regard," he said. "On behalf of the State of Colorado and judicial system — from the very entry point — you were failed and I apologize for that as well."

Judge Kern also said he feared the sentence could be perceived as “another officer gets off and that’s not the facts of the case.”

Body camera videoobtained by Denver7 showed two officers pulling up behind Rios-Gonzalez’s vehicle just off U.S. 85 and one of them, Platteville Police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez, stopping his vehicle on the train tracks.

As the officers were checking Rios-Gonzalez’s vehicle after arresting her, the train smashed into the police unit.

Sgt. Vazquez, who’s vehicle was on the tracks, is facing separate charges.

In January, Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against a Platteville sergeant and two Fort Lupton officers — as well as both police departments for their alleged role in the crash and her resulting injuries.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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