By: Katie Parkins
WELD COUNTY, Colo. (Scripps News Denver/AP/Court TV) — A Colorado police officer who put a woman in a parked police car before it was hit by a train has been found guilty of two misdemeanors.
Following a bench trial, Judge Timothy Kerns convicted Fort Lupton police officer Jordan Steinke of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault. Steinke was found not guilty of criminal attempt to commit manslaughter, a Class 5 felony.
Sentencing has been scheduled for September 15, 2023.
Steinke stood trial on charges related to the Sept. 16, 2022, arrest of 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez.
Steinke put Gonzalez into handcuffs, then shut the door on her in the back of a patrol vehicle that was parked near the intersection of U.S. Highway 85 and Weld County Road 36, moments before it was struck by an oncoming train.
The officers failed to move the SUV or help Rios-Gonzalez, train horn blaring as Rios-Gonzalez screamed for help.
She suffered extensive injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, from the crash.
In January, Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against a Platteville sergeant and two Fort Lupton officers — as well as both police departments for their role in the crash and her resulting injuries.
In February, the Weld County District Attorney’s office dismissed a separate second-degree felony assault charge against Steinke.
Steinke said during trial that she remembered seeing the tracks but did not process them. Judge Kerns used this testimony as basis for finding her guilty of the two misdemeanor charges.
Kerns referenced Steinke’s three and a half years on the job as a trained law enforcement officer in Weld County, her knowledge of the terrain she gained from her daily commute over U.S. Highway 85, the train tracks being visible from east of the road, and signs in the intersection warning of the train tracks, as his reasoning for the two guilty verdicts.
The judge said Steinke acknowledged the risk to Gonzalez and then consciously disregarded it.
Steinke countered she was focused on the suspect and the potential threat she posed.
Steinke’s lawyer argued during trial that the tracks were completely flush with the road, not anything to trip over, and there were no illuminated crossing signs or gates in the dark, rural area.
Police were initially pursuing Gonzalez in connection to a call in Fort Lupton reporting an alleged road rage incident involving a firearm.
She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in early July after prosecutors dropped a felony charge against her.
Gonzalez will avoid jail time if she follows the conditions of her deferred sentence and completes 10 hours of community service, according to court records.
According to Gonzalez’s lawsuit, there is a blue ENS sign at the railroad crossing that has a phone number to call if there is police activity on the railroad tracks. The officers did not call, it continues.
This story was originally published by Scripps News Denver, an E.W. Scripps Company.