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Massive probe into police killing of teen girl

28 January 2015, 12:34

Denver - Prosecutors on Tuesday promised a thorough investigation and asked angry protesters for patience after police shot and killed a 17-year-old girl who authorities said struck an officer with a stolen car.

The request came after about 20 people rallied outside district attorney Mitch Morrissey's office and called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Monday death of Jessica Hernandez.

The shooting occurred amid a national debate about police use of force fuelled by racially charged episodes in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

It was also the fourth time in seven months that a Denver police officer fired into a moving vehicle because he perceived it as a threat.

That prompted Denver's independent monitor to announce his own investigation into the department's policies and practices related to shooting at moving vehicles, which he said poses unique safety risks.

Morrissey wasn't there during the tense confrontation at his office, where chief deputy district attorneys Doug Jackson and Lamar Sims spoke over shouts and obscenities from some of the protesters.

Jackson said he could not discuss the facts of the case but assured the group that the findings of the investigation will be made public when it's finished.

Multiple shots

"You can decide whether we made the right decision or not," Jackson said.

Protesters said they don't trust Morrissey's office to handle the case because the last time a Denver police officer faced charges in a shooting was 1992.

"We are sick and tired of these kinds of things happening and there seems to be no true objective investigation," said the Reverend Patrick Demmer of the Greater Metro Denver ministerial alliance.

Police released few details about the shooting in a middle-class, residential neighbourhood of Denver. They said Hernandez was one of five people in the stolen car and she drove at a police officer.

The four other people in the car were not injured by the gunfire. All were questioned as part of the investigation, but none has been charged.

The shooting happened early on Monday after an officer was called to check on a suspicious vehicle. A colleague arrived after the officer determined the car had been reported stolen, police chief Robert White said.

Police said in a statement that the two officers then "approached the vehicle on foot when the driver drove the car into one of the officers".

Both officers then opened fire. One was treated and released from a hospital for a leg injury. Department spokesman Sonny Jackson wouldn't elaborate on the officer's injury or comment further about the case.

The medical examiner said Hernandez was shot multiple times but did not release further details.

Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.

- AP


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