‘Her Hands Were Behind Her Back… She Saw Everything Coming’: 20-Year-Old Mom Struck By a Freight Train After Being Handcuffed In Patrol Car Hires Lawyer

The young Colorado woman hit by a running train while in police custody has put the two towns that employ the officers who detained her on notice of an upcoming lawsuit. She has secured representation, even after only being released from the hospital earlier this week and having to heal from her injuries from her bed.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, Yareni Rios-Gonzalez was taken into custody by an officer from the Platteville Police Department. The officer believed she was a part of a possible act of rage involving a firearm and detained her on suspicion of felony menacing. Once he detained her, he placed the young woman in the back of his patrol vehicle.

While the Greeley native was handcuffed and sitting in the squad car that the officer had parked on the track crossing near U.S. 85 and County Road 38, north of Platteville, near Denver, the 20-year-old was struck by a Union Pacific freight train.

The PPD officer, joined by Fort Lupton officers, watched as the train hit his patrol car with Rios-Gonzalez handcuffed inside.

As a result of the accident, Rios-Gonzalez sustained nine broken ribs, cracked teeth, a fractured sternum, and a broken arm and leg and will require months of recovery with costly physical therapy and rehabilitation.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Rios-Gonzalez’s attorney, Paul Wilkinson, said he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of his client before the year is out. Saying he has already submitted a “notice of claim,” which is required by Colorado law, to the municipalities of Platteville and Fort Lupton informing them of their next steps, according to 9 News.

“She’s in a lot of pain. And I think she just realizes there’s a long road ahead. And, you know, it’s a little daunting,” Wilkinson said about the young lady. 

The lawyer stressed that the young woman’s life has been radically altered after being hit by the freight train, stopping her from enjoying the life she would normally experience.

He shared, “She’s a really nice young lady who wants to be out with her friends and her family and she realizes that it’s gonna be a while before she can do that.”

In addition to the recreational things she might want to get back to doing, Rios-Gonzalez is a mother and a TSA agent, her lawyer revealed. Her injuries have also placed a halt on everyday living.

Despite retaining a civil attorney, Rios-Gonzalez may need to find criminal representation, as the Weld County District Attorney’s Office is still considering a potential criminal case against her for the alleged road rage.

For now, no charges have not been filed against her.

There are additional moving parts to this case, according to state investigators with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Colorado State Patrol, who are reviewing footage of the events of that night.

Legal experts suggest the officers may face criminal charges for their actions (or inaction) that evening.

The lawyer doesn’t think it should be a hard decision to make to hold the officers accountable for their recklessness.

“I think everybody knows you don’t park a car on train tracks,” Wilkinson said. “It’s just reckless and it’s something you don’t do.”

The officers’ bodycam was released on Friday, Sept. 23, and showed them searching Rios-Gonzalez’s pickup truck, almost forgetting to check on her as she sat unattended in the car on the track.

Wilkinson said, “You can hear the train horn. The train has lights. Her hands were behind her back and she frantically tried to escape the vehicle, but the doors were locked, and it’s kind of a cage.”

According to the attorney, his client saw everything as it was happening. He said, “She had thought about trying to get through to the front and get out that way, but she could not exit the vehicle. She saw everything coming.”

The young woman said she tried to get the officers’ attention, frantically calling out to them, according to CPR, but they did not hear her.

That was all she remembered, waking up hours later at the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.

Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer confirmed the Platteville police officer involved in the incident is on administrative leave until several investigations from that night are complete, including the circumstances around the crash.

The Fort Lupton Police Department is looking into the 911 call reporting the road rage, but other than that has not released a comment on the status of the officers from their force.

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