A high-speed locomotive plowed into a parked police car with a handcuffed suspect in the back seat as at least one arresting officer ran for his life, a disturbing video released by Colorado police on Friday shows.
Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, was locked in the cruiser, which was parked on tracks north of Platteville, Colorado, the evening of Sept. 16. She could see and hear the freight train coming and “tried frantically to get the officers’ attention,” personal injury lawyer Paul Wilkinson said. Rios-Gonzalez tried to escape from the car, but the doors were locked, Wilkinson said.
“She saw the whole thing coming and believed it to be the end,” he said.
The newly released body camera video shows officers handcuffing and putting Rios-Gonzalez into the driver’s side back seat before searching her truck, which was parked just ahead of the train tracks. The sound of a blaring train horn can be heard moments before the northbound train hurtled into the passenger side of the cop car.
“Stay back!” one officer yelled, possibly to other police at the scene, just before the impact. An officer can be seen quickly retreating from the parked cruiser before it was hit.
The 8-minute video, which pieces together footage from multiple angles and was edited and redacted by the Fort Lupton Police Department, was obtained by 9News and Wilkinson confirmed its authenticity to USA TODAY. It shows Rios-Gonzalez was detained in the car sitting on the train tracks for about two minutes before the crash.
In another clip published by 9News, officers seemed not to immediately realize Rios-Gonzalez was in the police car when it was hit. A male officer asked a female officer seconds after the impact, “Was she in there?”
“Oh my god, yes she was,” the female officer responded before running toward the demolished cruiser.
“Oh f—,” the male officer said.
According to the Fort Lupton Police Department, officers responded to a report of someone “menacing with a handgun” on the highway. A Platteville police officer pulled Rios-Gonzalez over and Fort Lupton officers helped detain her and search her truck. Officers continue searching the truck after the crash and after Rios-Gonzalez was taken away in an ambulance, the footage shows.
No charges have been filed against Rios-Gonzalez in connection with her detainment as of Friday afternoon, Wilkinson told USA TODAY.
She sustained a head injury, broken arm, fractured sternum, nine broken ribs, broken teeth and injuries to her back and legs, Wilkinson said. She is conscious, able to speak and has been able to stand briefly. Her recovery will be long, Wilkinson said, but medical staff is hopeful she can leave the hospital sometime next week when she regains more mobility.
Wilkinson said he is representing Rios-Gonzalez and will be pursuing legal action against the Platteville Police Department and the three officers who were present individually. He said the officers’ conduct rises to the level of reckless endangerment, a standard higher than negligence or gross negligence in Colorado law.
“Just the fact of parking on train tracks is something no one should ever do,” Wilkinson said, adding that Rios-Gonzalez’s safety was in the hands of police once they took her into custody.
Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer told USA TODAY via email earlier this week that the Platteville officer involved in the incident was put on administrative leave while the investigation is completed. The Fort Lupton Police Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry from USA TODAY. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it is investigating Rios-Gonzalez’s injuries while the Colorado State Patrol investigates the crash and the Fort Lupton Police Department investigates the alleged road rage incident and arrest.
Contributing: Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY