DA drops felony charge against officer in train crash case
DENVER (AP) — Prosecutors have dismissed the most serious charge against a Colorado police officer who locked a handcuffed woman in a parked police car that was hit by a freight train, leaving her with serious injuries.
The Weld County District Attorney’s office dismissed the second-degree felony assault charge against Officer Jordan Steinke on Thursday, according to court documents. Steinke and another officer still face less serious charges in connection with the Sept. 16, 2022 incident.
The collision occurred after multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a report of a road rage incident in Fort Lupton, Colorado. A Platteville police officer stopped Yareni Rios' car just past a set of railroad tracks and parked the patrol vehicle on the crossing. Another officer handcuffed Rios and placed her in the back of the police vehicle, which was hit by the train as officers were searching her car.
The 21-year-old Rios survived with serious injuries, and later filed a lawsuit accusing three officers of asking recklessly and failing in their duty to take care of her while she was in their custody. In the lawsuit, Rios alleges the train tracks were “plainly visible” to Steinke as she put Rios in the back seat of the patrol car belonging to Platteville Sgt. Pablo Vazquez.
Court records do not reveal why prosecutors dropped the assault charge against Steinke. Krista Henery, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said she could not comment because of pending litigation.
Steinke still faces other less serious charges in connection with the incident, including felony attempted reckless manslaughter and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. Steinke was placed on administrative leave after the collision and remains on leave, according to the police department.
Steinke’s attorney, Mallory Revel, said in a statement Friday that dismissing the assault charge was the “right thing” for the district attorney’s office to do, and contended the remaining charges should also be dismissed.
Vazquez is charged with five misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and is scheduled for a pretrial conference in March. Vazquez was fired from the police department in December, Platteville police Chief Carl Dwyer said Friday. A phone number for Vazquez could not be found.