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Expert struggles to understand why Platteville officer placed woman in patrol car parked on train tracks

"It’s beyond me how any rational person could do something like this."
CSP: Platteville PD vehicle with suspect inside hit by train
Posted at 9:46 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 23:46:56-04

WELD COUNTY, Colo.  — A Platteville police officer is on paid administrative leave after his patrol car, which had a woman inside, was hit by a train Friday evening.

The crash happened just before 8 p.m. in the area of Highway 85 and Weld County Road 36. Authorities said the initial call was reported as an alleged road rage incident involving a firearm in Ft. Lupton earlier in the evening.

According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, a Platteville officer located the vehicle to make a traffic stop on US 85 and County Rd. 38. The driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez of Greeley, pulled to a stop just past the railroad tracks, with the patrol officer behind the car on the tracks.

With the assistance of two Ft. Lupton officers, police conducted a high-risk traffic stop and detained Rios-Gonzalez and placed her in the back of the patrol car parked on the tracks.

While the officers cleared the suspect vehicle as part of the investigation, a Union Pacific train traveling northbound struck the Platteville patrol car, according to a CBI release.

Rios-Gonzalez was taken to a Greeley hospital with a serious injuries. In an update Monday, CBI said Rios-Gonzalez is still in the hospital and is expected to survive.

The officer and the train crew were not injured.

Expert struggles to understand why Platteville officer placed woman in patrol car parked on train tracks

A law enforcement expert, who has worked on more than 1,000 cases across the country, told Denver7 the incident doesn’t make sense.

“I thought I'd seen, in nearly 50 years in this field, just about every kind of incident, but this is one for the books,” said Dr. George Kirkham, a nationally recognized police standards and procedures expert.

Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer said the officer is on paid administrative leave while CBI and Colorado State Police investigate.

“The Town of Platteville continues to work cooperatively with CBI and CSP during their investigation regarding this incident. The Platteville Police Department has nothing to add at this time to CBI's press release that was issued on Saturday,” Dwyer said.

Kirkham said it’s difficult to imagine how this could have happened.

“It's difficult for me to imagine how you would not be aware your car, or her car, were on railroad tracks, to a very close proximity to railroad tracks, and that would mean you put someone in the back of a police car,” he said. “You know, it's a Venus flytrap.”

Kirkham said it’s possible the officer had too much adrenaline from the chase and forgot basic procedures.

“You have to be conscious of what's going on and follow your training,” he said. “And this is so basic. It’s beyond me how any rational person could do something like this.”

The officer’s name has not been released.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are involved in the investigation. The Ft. Lupton Police Department is investigating the alleged road rage incident. CSP is reviewing the crash, and CBI is investigating how Rios-Gonzalez was injured while in police custody.