Cop Who Put Suspect in Car Hit by Train Found Guilty of Reckless Endangerment, But Not Attempted Manslaughter

Police Cruiser on Train Tracks
Dash camera video from Fort Lupton Police Department shows a freight train barreling toward a parked police car on the railroad tracks with handcuffed suspect in the back seat, authorities said.Fort Lupton Police Department

A Colorado police officer on trial for attempted reckless manslaughter after putting a handcuffed suspect in a police car, which was struck by a freight train, was acquitted on that count Friday. She was convicted on two misdemeanor charges.

A Colorado cop who placed a handcuffed suspect in the back seat of a police cruiser, which was hit by a freight train moments later, has been convicted of two misdemeanor charges in the case.

Weld County District Court Judge Timothy Kerns on Friday convicted Fort Lupton Police officer Jordan Steinke of misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment but found her not guilty of felony attempted reckless manslaughter.

Steinke had waived her right to a jury trial in proceedings that began Monday.

She was charged late last year after responding to a September call for backup at a traffic stop, where an officer said he had stopped a woman who allegedly pointed a gun at another driver earlier in the evening during a road rage incident, authorities said.

Bodycam footage showed Steinke placing a handcuffed Yareni Rios-Gonzalez into the cruiser of Platteville Police officer Pablo Vazquez, who had made the call for backup and parked his vehicle on railroad tracks, police said.

Bodycam footage of the incident showed a freight train slamming into the cruiser moments later crushing it. Rios-Gonzalez survived, but was seriously injured. She was unable to testify at trial because she is still recovering, prosecutors said.

Steinke testified in her defense Wednesday, saying she did not "perceive" that the patrol car was parked on railroad tracks.

“I am sure I saw the tracks, sir, but I did not perceive them," Steinke told the prosecutor. She said she was focused on the suspect and was “fairly certain” the traffic stop would turn into a gunfight.

"The entire case here hinges on the defendant's awareness of the train tracks," said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Jewkes in closing statements Thursday. "And the evidence shows she had to have, and did know, the train tracks were there under her feet, and under that patrol car."

Steinke wept through closing arguments. 

"Officer Steinke was not trying to harm Ms. Rios-Gonzalez. To the contrary, this accident has haunted Officer Steinke every single day since it occurred," defense attorney Mallory Revel told the court Thursday. "It was a horrific accident."

Rios-Gonzalez later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor menacing in the alleged road rage incident, according to her attorney.

Vazquez, the Platteville police officer who parked his car on the tracks, is also being prosecuted for misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, according to authorities. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 14. 

Earlier this year, Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer announced Vazquez was fired by the department in connection to the incident.

Steinke was placed on administrative leave following the crash and remains on leave, CBS News reported.

Related Stories