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Denver to pay $1 million to family of girl, 17, slain by police

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The city of Denver will pay $1 million to the family of a teenage girl who police shot to death two years ago as she sat behind the wheel of a stolen car, both sides said on Wednesday.

Jessica Hernandez, 17, was killed in an alley in January 2015 after police said she tried to run over two officers who responded to reports of a suspicious vehicle in an east Denver neighborhood.

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Autopsy results showed the girl died from “multiple gunshot wounds” to her heart and lungs.

Four other girls were in the car when the officers fired into the vehicle, police said.

The shooting sparked outrage in Denver’s Latino community and protests. There were further demonstrations in June 2015 after the Denver district attorney declined to file charges against the officers who opened fire.

The agreement announced on Wednesday headed off a potential lawsuit, city officials said in a statement.

“Resolving this case early avoids protracted litigation that would have been costly and divisive and, hopefully, will be a significant step in moving forward as a community,” Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson said in the statement.

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The shooting prompted the Denver Police Department (DPD) to revamp its policy on use of force, Police Chief Robert White said in the statement.

While the two officers who shot Hernandez were complying with policies in place at the time, White said, that did not “negate the pain felt by all involved.”

“This incident was the catalyst for DPD’s review of nearly a decade of records and data on officer involved shootings that resulted in the new policy on shooting into moving vehicles,” he said.

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The city also agreed to expand its outreach to the Hispanic and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Jessica Hernandez identified as gay.

“We are hopeful that these changes can help make sure no family goes through what we have and that Jessie’s death was not in vain,” the Hernandez family said in a statement.

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Police also agreed not to release criminal histories of people shot by its officers unless it relates to the specific incident.

After the Hernandez shooting, police said the teen had been charged weeks earlier in a neighboring county with a number of charges unrelated to the Denver incident.

The settlement is expected to be approved by the city council next week.

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(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jonathan Oatis)


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