According to a CBS News report on Monday, September 18, A former Colorado police officer who parked a handcuffed woman in a police vehicle on train tracks, resulting in the woman being struck by a freight train, has avoided prison time.
29-year-old Jordan Steinke was sentenced to 30 months of supervised probation on Friday after being convicted of reckless endangerment and assault for the September 2022 incident.
The crash left the handcuffed woman, Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, with serious injuries.
The incident occurred after Rios-Gonzalez was detained following a suspected road rage incident where she allegedly pulled a gun on another motorist.
Steinke, who responded to the scene, handcuffed Rios-Gonzalez and locked her in a police SUV belonging to Officer Pablo Vazquez.
Video shows that within seconds of Steinke closing the door, a Union Pacific freight train approached and smashed into the SUV, dragging it down the tracks.
Rios-Gonzalez suffered a brain injury, broken bones, and other injuries but survived. She attended Steinke’s sentencing hearing remotely.
Steinke apologized to Rios-Gonzalez, saying the event had haunted her.
As part of her probation, Steinke will perform 100 hours of community service, including giving talks to new officers about railroad safety.
Rios-Gonzalez said she has conflicted feelings, angry about her injuries but also feeling sorry for Steinke losing her career.
Steinke was fired and expected to lose her peace officer certification.
Her defense argued she didn’t know Vazquez parked on the tracks because it was dark.
Vazquez still faces charges for his role in the incident. Rios-Gonzalez has filed a lawsuit against the police agencies involved.
She recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor menacing related to the alleged road rage incident.
At sentencing, the judge said he originally planned to imprison Steinke but changed his mind after attorneys argued for probation.
The judge warned that if Steinke violates probation, he will “harken back to my original gut response.”
While some may see the lack of prison time as another officer getting off easy, the judge said this mischaracterizes the facts.
The video shows Steinke seeming oblivious to the approaching train, supporting her claim that she didn’t know the SUV was on the tracks.
The horrifying incident reveals a need for better training on situational awareness and railroad safety for officers making arrests near tracks.
It serves as a warning about the severe consequences of even momentary lapses in attention.