Jessica Hernandez, a 16-year-old girl in Denver, Colorado, who friends called “funny,” “outgoing,” “wild,” and “trying to find her talent,” is dead today after police Monday morning opened fire on a car she was driving, with four other teenagers in the vehicle.
The passengers in the car, which police allege was stolen, were unharmed by the gunfire — reported by witnesses as four shots fired at close range in an alleyway — but Hernandez was killed.
Police have not released the name of the driver they shot dead, but friends of Jessica Hernandez held a vigil for her near the scene of the police shooting Monday evening and said they planned to rally outside the office of Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey on Tuesday.
According to police and media reports out of Denver, the shooting happened at about 6:30 a.m. Monday morning in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, near the intersection of East 25th Avenue and Newport Street.
After a police officer responded to a report of “suspicious activity” in the darkened alley, and confirmed that a vehicle in the alley had been stolen on Sunday night, he waited for a backup officer to arrive. At that point, the two police officers walked toward the car.
BREAKING: DPD ofcrs invlved in shooting. No officers hit. 2 suspects shot- one critical. Ofc were on a call of suspicious activity in alley
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) January 26, 2015
At some point, the driver of the vehicle put the car in motion, striking one of the officers in the leg with the vehicle. The two officers then opened fire, killing her.
UPDATE: only one person shot (female) has been pronounced deceased. 1 Ofc injured (not shot) — Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) January 26, 2015
From information so far made publicly available, it is not clear whether the officers identified themselves as police before Hernandez allegedly drove at them. The alleyway was described as dark, and the neighborhood has had problems with gang activity, so the possibility remains that Jessica Hernandez mistook the officers for someone else.
Witnesses allege that the officers dragged the wounded Hernandez out of the car and handcuffed her before calling for medical assistance, according to a report in the Denver Post, which also said that the witness captured the aftermath of the shooting on video.
One officer was later treated at a hospital for an unspecified leg injury.
Police have offered scant details on the shooting of Jessica Hernandez, not yet revealing to whom the stolen car belonged. Occasionally, relatives will report a family vehicle as stolen when a teenager takes the car without permission, but whether that was the case in the Jessica Hernandez incident is not known.
But the parent of one of the car’s passengers indicated that the teens were not acting like criminals on the run in a stolen vehicle. In fact, the group — four girls and a boy — had been sitting in the car much of the night, simply talking and listening to music, the parent, who did not wish to be publicly identified, told the Post.
The parent said that the group of friends gathered in a nearby park on Sunday night, playing a Ouija board game, but that her child stayed out too late failing to text or call home with her whereabouts.
Video from Monday night’s vigil for Jessica Hernandez, in which friends of the girl offer memories of the slain Denver teen, can be viewed above.