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Judge expected to reach verdict Friday for officer accused of leaving woman in patrol car hit by train

Officer Jordan Steinke faces felony, misdemeanor charges
platteville train crash_The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm
Posted at 6:02 AM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 08:02:52-04

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — A Fort Lupton officer accused of knowingly putting a woman inside a parked patrol car that was then struck by a train is one step closer to learning her fate.

In September, Officer Jordan Steinke responded to a felony stop north of Platteville. Authorities said the initial call was reported as an alleged road rage incident involving a firearm in Ft. Lupton earlier in the evening.

Body-worn camera video shows Steinke placing a woman, 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, inside of a patrol car parked on top of train tracks. Moments later, a freight train slammed into the car, seriously injuring Rios-Gonzalez.

Steinke is accused of criminal attempt to commit reckless manslaughter, third-degree assault, and reckless endangerment. The judge will decide her fate, and his verdict is expected on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

The crux of the case is whether or not Steinke knew the patrol car was parked on top of train tracks. Prosecutors claim Steinke was aware of the tracks, and consciously disregarded them. They called her actions "a substantial and unjustifiable risk."

Steinke cried during closing arguments. Defense attorneys claim the prosecutor's argument involves speculation and "not proof beyond a reasonable doubt." They said Steinke could not disregard a risk she did not know was there.

“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. It was a horrific accident," said defense attorney Mallory Revel during her closing argument.

In her own words on the stand, Steinke said she saw the tracks but did not perceive them. Essentially, her point — as argued by defense attorneys — was that she did not register or process what she was seeing.

One of the attorneys representing Rios-Gonzalez in her civil case, Chris Ponce, said his client will respect and accept whatever decision is made in the criminal proceedings.

"Their defense is that this situation was so stressful to this officer that she simply did not notice that the train tracks were there," said Ponce. "It's our opinion — again, as we've stated in documents that we've filed publicly — that is just not true. It's simply not true. The train tracks were obvious, it was ignored... and the situation just wasn't all that stressful.”