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Platteville sergeant takes plea deal in connection with train crash that injured woman in custody

Platteville train-car crash Sept 16 2022
Posted at 11:49 AM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-05 19:34:05-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — A Platteville police sergeant took a plea deal Tuesday after he was charged in connection with parking his vehicle on train tracks shortly before a train smashed into the car, injuring a woman inside who was in police custody.

On Sept. 16, 2022, near U.S. Highway 85 and the intersection with Weld County Road 36, multiple officers pulled over Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, who had been involved in an alleged road rage incident in Fort Lupton that evening. Body camera video obtained by Denver7 shows Fort Lupton and Platteville police officers pulling up behind Rios-Gonzalez’s vehicle just off U.S. 85. In the video, Platteville Police Sgt. Pablo Vazquez is seen stopping his vehicle on the train tracks. The officers take the woman into custody and put her in Vazquez's car. Shortly afterward, a train approached and smashed into the police vehicle. Rios-Gonzalez suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, broken teeth, fractured sternum, and injuries to her leg, back and head, her attorney said. She was hospitalized for more than a week after the crash.

platteville train crash_The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm

Vazquez was charged with five counts of reckless endangerment, careless driving, and obstruction. Another officer, Fort Lupton Police Officer Jordan Steinke, who was accused of putting Rios-Gonzalez into the vehicle, was charged with criminal attempt to commit manslaughter, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment.

In July, Steinke was found guilty of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault — both misdemeanors — and not guilty on a felony charge. She was sentenced to 30 months supervised probation and 100 hours of community service. She was terminated from her role at the police department. In addition, Rios-Gonzalez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in connection with a felony menacing charge. Weld County prosecutors dropped the felony charge against her. She filed a lawsuit in January.

Platteville sgt. takes plea deal after train crash that injured woman in custody

On Tuesday, Vazquez's defense team said the parties had come to an agreement for Vazquez to plead guilty to one count of reckless endangerment.

Weld County Judge John Briggs said if Vazquez finishes all the requirements and meets stipulations lined out in the plea agreement, he can have the charge dismissed and the case sealed.

He gave Vazquez the chance to speak.

"For most of my adult life, I served and protected the people of this state," Vazquez said in the courtroom. "On Sept. 16, 2022, I did just that. I did my job as a law enforcement officer and responded to protect the people of this state. Unfortunately, a sequence of events occurred and things happened right after another. That’s all I have to say, Your Honor."

The judge noted that Vazquez has "a real opportunity" to move forward from the incident and have the case removed from his record down the line, barring any new offenses. He said the agreement takes into account Vazquez's lifetime of allegiance to Colorado, but also told the defendant that he is pleading to his actions, and "it didn't just happen, you could have done better," though he added Vazquez is "taking responsibility" with the plea.

The judge accepted the plea agreement. As a result, the other charges were dismissed.

Vazquez was sentenced to a 12-month unsupervised deferred judgement and sentence.

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