A former Colorado police officer who placed a handcuffed woman in the back of a police car parked on the tracks before a locomotive crashed into it will avoid prison time, a judge has ruled.
The arrested woman, Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, survived but was seriously injured when a speeding train slammed into the car last year. The officer who placed her there, Jordan Steinke, was sentenced Friday to 30 months of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service.
Steinke, who worked for the Fort Lupton Police Department at the time of the crash, was convicted earlier this summer of reckless endangerment and assault — both misdemeanors — but acquitted of a third charge, a criminal attempt at manslaughter.
Weld County District Court Judge Timothy Kerns said he planned to sentence Steinke to prison, but decided on the sentence after prosecutors and defense attorneys said they requested a probation for her, the Denver Post reported. He said if Steinke violates the terms of his probation, he will review his sentence.
“Someone is going to hear this and say, ‘Another officer is coming down,'” Kerns said. “Those are not the facts of this case.”
Another officer, Pablo Vazquez, of the Platteville police, is still on trial for reckless endangerment and for parking his car on the railroad tracks.
Steinke was fired after her conviction and is expected to lose her certification in peace officer standards and training, her lawyer Mallory Revel said, according to the Denver Post, meaning she can never be a police officer again .
Revel declined to comment when contacted by USA TODAY on Tuesday.
Rios-Gonzalez respects the sentence and said she never wants to see something like this happen to another person, her attorney, Chris Ponce, told USA TODAY in a statement.
She “doesn’t want to see Ms. Steinke’s life ruined, but thinks it’s a good thing she’ll never be a police officer again,” Ponce said.
Video shows moment train crashes into car with woman inside
Body and dashboard camera footage released after the September 16, 2022 crash shows Steinke handcuffing Rios-Gonzalez, 20 at the time, and placing her in the back of the police car, which is parked on railway tracks. Train tracks and crossing signs are both visible in the video.
Rios-Gonzalez was in the car for about two minutes when the sound of a train horn sounded moments before the locomotive rushed into the passenger side of the police car at high speed, pushing the car with it.
“Stay back!” An officer can be heard screaming just before impact. An officer can be seen quickly backing away from the parked car before it was hit.
Rios-Gonzalez could see and hear the train coming, her lawyers told USA TODAY, and tried desperately to get out and alert police.
“She saw it all coming and thought it was the end,” lawyer Paul Wilkinson said last year.
In one clip, officers did not appear to immediately realize that Rios-Gonzalez was in the police car when it was struck. A police officer asked a female officer seconds after the impact: “Was she in there?”
“Oh my God, yes, she was,” the policewoman replied before running towards the demolished cruiser.
Rios-Gonzalez was arrested, her truck parked just before the railroad tracks, following a report that a driver was “threatening” with a handgun, police said at the time. She later pleaded no contest to the offense of threatening, her attorney said.
Officer says she didn’t ‘perceive’ the marks and apologizes to woman
During the trial, Steinke and her defense team said she did not intend to harm Rios-Gonzalez. She didn’t know the car was parked on the tracks, she said, even though the tracks are visible on the body camera video.
“I’m sure I saw the marks … but I didn’t perceive them,” Steinke said when pressed by prosecutors earlier this year, adding that she was focusing on the possibility that gunshots Fire breaks out during arrest.
Steinke apologized to Rios-Gonzalez before her sentencing.
“What happened that night haunted me for 364 days,” Steinke said. “I remember your screams and screams.”
A woman will be affected for life by injuries
Rios-Gonzalez suffered serious injuries from which she will recover for the rest of her life, her lawyers said, including head trauma.
Ponce told USA TODAY earlier this year that she was “inundated” with medical appointments and would likely never fully recover “physically, emotionally or cognitively.”
“Ms. Rios-Gonzalez suffers daily from the collision,” Ponce said Tuesday.
Rios-Gonzalez also filed a civil suit against the Platteville and Fort Lupton police departments, according to court records.
Contributor: Associated Press