DENVER (AP) — Two Denver police officers were justified in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl driving a stolen car in January and won’t face criminal charges, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said Friday.
In a letter to Denver police explaining his decision, Morrissey said Jessica Hernandez drove dangerously close to officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Greene, threatening Jordan’s life and refusing orders to stop and get out of the car.
“This begs the question of why Hernandez chose to not comply with those orders,” Morrissey wrote. “Perhaps she feared being caught driving a stolen car. Perhaps her judgment was impaired by marijuana and alcohol. … What is clear from the facts and needs no inference is that her decisions created a very dangerous situation, not just to herself and to the officers, but also to her friends who were in the car with her.”
Police have said the officers found Hernandez and four other teenagers inside the car in an alley on Jan. 26. Physical evidence suggests the Honda was moving when the officers fired shots, the letter said.
A call to a lawyer representing Hernandez’s family wasn’t immediately returned.
Morrissey said he understands that the shooting inflamed tensions in the community, and he hopes his letter explaining his decision will help people understand why no criminal charges are warranted.
The shooting came during a national debate about police use of force after racially charged killings in Missouri and New York.
Soon after the shooting, a passenger in the car, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said officers came up on the car from behind and fired four times into the driver’s-side window.
The passenger also said the officers did not yell any commands before they fired, and that the car may have struck the officer after Hernandez was shot and lost control of the vehicle.