DENVER (AP) – A former Colorado police officer who put a handcuffed woman in a parked police vehicle that was hit by a freight train, causing the woman to suffer serious injuries, has avoided a jail sentence and must instead serve 30 months on supervised probation.
Jordan Steinke, 29, was sentenced by Weld county District Court Judge Timothy Kerns, who found her guilty of reckless endangerment and assault for the September 16, 2022, crash near Platteville. Kerns acquitted the former Fort Lupton police officer of criminal attempt to commit manslaughter after her bench trial in July.
Kerns said he had planned to sentence Steinke to jail, but he changed his mind after both prosecutors and defence attorneys sought a probationary sentence, The Denver Post reported.
“Someone is going to hear this and say: ‘Another officer gets off,’ ” Kerns said. “That’s not the facts of this case.”
He ordered Steinke to perform 100 hours of community service. And if she violates the terms of her probation, “I will harken back to my original gut response as to how to address sentencing,” Kerns warned.
Steinke, who wept during the sentencing hearing, apologised to Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, who attended the hearing virtually. “What happened that night has haunted me for 364 days,” Steinke said.
“I remember your cries and your screams.” Steinke said she hoped to fulfill some of her community service by giving educational talks to new police officers about the dangers of railroad tracks and the importance of officers being aware of their surroundings.
Then-Plateville police sargeant Pablo Vazquez had stopped Rios-Gonzalez after a reported road-rage incident involving a gun. Steinke took her into custody and locked her in Vazquez’s police vehicle, which was parked on the railroad tracks.
A train crashed into the SUV.
Rios-Gonzalez, who suffered a lasting brain injury and is in pain, was conflicted about how she wanted Steinke to be punished, attorney Chris Ponce said.