Jessica “Jessie” Hernandez suffered four gunshot wounds, including two to her left side. An attorney for the family said the findings contradict the police account.
The autopsy of a teenage girl fatally shot by Denver cops found that the 17-year-old had two wounds to the left side of her chest, another on her right thigh and one to the pelvis.
The coroner ruled Jessica “Jessie” Hernandez’s death a homicide and said two bullets were recovered, adding that the wounds to her right thigh and pelvis were likely from a single bullet. None of the shots were fired at close range.
Jessica was killed on Jan. 26 in a confrontation with police who were responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle. Two officers approached the car on foot after they determined it was reported stolen, the Denver Police Department said in a statement.
Authorities said Hernandez drove the car, which had four other teens inside it, into one of the officers and struck him on the leg. Both officers then fired and shot Hernandez multiple times, she was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Attorneys for the family of Jessica Hernandez said the report shows she was shot from the driver’s side, and contradicts police statements that she was driving at officers when they fired.
“The report shows that Jessie was shot from the driver’s side of the car and not from close range,” attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said in a statement. “These facts undermine the Denver Police Department’s claim that Jessie was driving at the officers as they shot her.”
A friend of Jessica’s who was in the passenger seat during the incident had previously told BuzzFeed News that officers were standing next to the car, not in front of it, when they shot. Trina Diaz, 16, also said the officer was hit only after Jessica was struck.
The Denver Police Department declined to comment on the autopsy’s findings and Mohamedbhai’s statements.
Denver police policies state that firing at a moving vehicle and disabling the driver could result in an uncontrolled car and the likelihood of injury to occupants.
Officers are instructed to move out of the way if possible rather than shooting at a vehicle, the policy said. The policy states that police officers should only shoot if the vehicle poses an immediate threat of death or serious injury, or if there are no other options.
The U.S. Department of Justice has criticized the practice of police officers shooting at moving vehicles. Jessica’s shooting was the fourth officer-involved shooting in the last seven months during which Denver police have shot at moving vehicles, authorities said.
Coroner James L. Caruso said Jessica died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds that injured the heart and both lungs. She also had bruises and abrasions to her face, torso and neck.
“Jessie was clinging to her life after being suffering four gunshot wounds,” Mohamedbhai said. “She was then dragged out of the car, dropped onto the ground, and handcuffed. The abrasions to her face confirm this inhumane treatment.”
The Denver Police Department, Denver District Attorney and the Office of the Independent Monitor were investigating the shooting.
Mohamedbhai said Jessica’s family was renewing their calls for an independent federal investigation into her death and the Denver Police Department’s policies.
“The family has no confidence that the Denver Police Department or District Attorney will conduct any sort of fair or meaningful investigation,” Mohamedbhai said.