A young Colorado woman detained by police was seriously injured after getting hit by a freight train as she sat in the back of a patrol car. The cop, who parked his car on the train tracks, has been placed on paid leave as officials investigate the accident.
On Friday, Sept. 16, Yareni Rios-Gonzalez was taken into custody by an officer from the Platteville Police Department on suspicion of felony menacing, possibly an act of road rage in Fort Lupton, Colorado, involving a gun. Once he detained her, he placed the young woman in the back of his cruiser.
The cop left the 20-year-old in his squad car, which was parked on the train track crossing near U.S. 85 and County Road 38, north of Platteville, near Denver, to join Fort Lupton officers to search the woman’s vehicle that she parked a few feet away from the tracks, NBC News reports
While the police officer and two other cops from the Fort Lupton Police department searched Rios-Gonzalez’s truck, a train traveling northbound struck the patrol car with the suspect in it, leaving the Greely, Colorado, resident in serious condition.
A video of the incident has been released. It shows one officer shouting at another, “move your car” before the other cop looks at the car, turns to look at the train, and then walks off the tracks just before the locomotive smashes into the police cruiser.
The TSA agent sustained nine broken ribs, a fractured sternum, a broken arm, and many other injuries to her head, back, and legs. Though her injuries are severe, a report on Sunday, Sept. 18, said she was expected to live.
The young woman has now secured an attorney, who said his client was “frantically” trying to escape the vehicle.
“She was frantically trying to get out,” personal injury lawyer Paul Wilkinson told 9NEWS in an interview. “Of course, the doors were locked.”
He continued, “She’s definitely upset about what happened. She doesn’t understand why she was left in the car. She was yelling to get their attention and could see the train coming.”
Law and Crime reports that Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer did not reveal the officer’s name or any additional information regarding the collision, but shared he was placed on paid leave.
“The Town of Platteville continues to work cooperatively with CBI and CSP during their investigation regarding this incident,” he shared with FOX 31.
911 calls help piece together what lead to Rios-Gonzalez being placed in the patrol.
The person who initiated the call claimed a woman in a silver Toyota Tundra truck “pulled a gun” on the caller during a tailgating event.
Three agencies (FLPD, Weld County’s Sheriff Officer, and PPD) were looking for the silver truck, with the latter locating a vehicle that fit the description first.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in a statement, “The driver of the vehicle pulled to a stop just past the railroad tracks, with the patrol officer behind the car on the tracks.”
It further read, “Two Ft. Lupton officers arrived on the scene and the team conducted a high-risk traffic stop and detained a lone female occupant (age 20, Greeley) placing her in the back of the Platteville patrol car detained on suspicion of felony menacing.”
“While the officers cleared the suspect vehicle as part of the investigation, a train traveling northbound struck the PPD patrol car,” it continued.
The CBI also stated the officers performed life-saving measures on Rios-Gonzales after the crash, before she was taken to the hospital.
Chatter captured on the radio recording, secured by KUSA, suggests the officers on the scene held Rios-Gonzalez “at gunpoint.” But that was not revealed in the CBI’s report.
The radio chatter also captures the frantic moments after the accident.
One officer from Ft. Lupton says, “Dispatch, Lupton 346: patrol car was just hit by a train.”
“Dispatch, Lupton 346: get medical emergent [sic],” the cop continued. “The suspect was in the vehicle that was hit by the train.”
“Copy,” the dispatcher replied.
The officer whose car was struck said, “Just advising … we can’t get the doors open on the unit, and the female passenger is inside my unit.”
A bifurcated approach will be taken during the investigations of this incident.
The CBI has launched an investigation into Rios-Gonzalez. The Fort Lupton Police Department is investigating the initial 911 call that prompted the search for the truck. Lastly, the Colorado State Patrol is looking into the “serious-injury traffic accident” caused by the train ramming into the car.
Ed Obayashi, a California sheriff deputy, who specializes as a police tactics expert said he could not “fathom” why the officer would park his patrol vehicle on the tracks and believed the negligence opens the department up to a civil lawsuit.
“I can’t fathom why he would leave his vehicle on the tracks with the subject inside. Why didn’t you move the vehicle off the tracks? That’s going to be the biggest question,” he said.
“Those who are in your custody,” the expert continued. “You’ve detained them or they’re in the back of your patrol car, you have a duty of care towards that subject,” the expert posited. “In other words, since you have assumed control, physical control, over them and their movements, you are by definition responsible to protect them in any situation.”