Two Denver Police officers fatally shot a teenage girl while she was driving a car with four passengers early Monday morning. The police allege that the car was stolen and one officer was hit in the leg by the vehicle prior to the officers opening fire. Denver police chief Robert White told reporters that he could not provide the exact age of the victim but said that “everyone in the car was very young” and the girl who was killed “appeared to be a teenager.”
After receiving a call about a suspicious vehicle in an alley around 6:30 a.m., White said, officers arrived on the scene, ran the car’s license plate through their database, and determined it was stolen. The car then struck one officer in the leg, prompting two other officers to shoot at the driver of the car, who was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
White says he doesn’t yet know if the driver intentionally hit the officer with the car. “Obviously there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and the investigation will discover exactly what happened,” he said. “I think the investigation will show that the officers’ actions were correct but if not we will certainly address that.”
Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave.
Residents who live near the shooting site told the Denver Post they heard “screaming and crying” after the guns went off, and one neighbor provided the paper with a video they say shows the female driver being searched by police after she was shot.
“In the video, the female is handcuffed and rolled on her stomach and back on the ground, appearing to be searched, the Post reports. “The female is limp, silent and motionless as officers move her about.”
Local activists, including members of the Denver Community Defense Committee are calling the incident an example of police brutality, and held a vigil Monday night at the site of the shooting “to take a stand against police violence in our communities.”
This morning’s fatal shooting is the third time in just the last seven months that Denver police have fired at the driver of a vehicle.
In a July incident still under review, officers killed 20-year-old Ryan Ronquillo, who was unarmed, after he struck a police car. In November, Denver officers shot two brothers who tried to escape from a traffic stop. That incident also remains under investigation.
The AP has identified the victim as 16-year-old Jessica Hernandez. An investigation is now being conducted by police, the district attorney and the Office of the Independent Monitor, a civilian oversight agency for the city.