A Denver police officer involved in the deadly shooting of a 17-year-old girl may have been injured trying to get out of the way of a stolen car the teenager was driving, the police chief said Thursday.
The possibility raised during a preliminary investigation of the shooting clouded Chief Robert White's initial statement that two of his officers opened fire after one was struck by the car.
The shooting occurred early Monday after the officers found Jessica Hernandez and four other teenagers inside the car in an alley. White said the officers told the teens several times to get out of the vehicle.
He wouldn't comment further on the sequence of events or what prompted the officers to fire, and emphasized that the investigation was in its early stages.
A passenger in the car, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, has disputed the official account, saying officers came up on the car from behind and fired four times into the driver's-side window.
The passenger also said that the officers did not yell any commands before they fired, and that the car struck the officer after Hernandez was shot and lost control of the vehicle. Officer Gabriel Jordan suffered a fractured leg.
Department policy encourages officers to move out of the way of a moving car rather than use their firearm. But it allows them to shoot if they have no other reasonable way to prevent death or serious injury.
White said he could not judge whether Jordan and fellow Officer Daniel Greene acted appropriately until criminal and internal investigations were complete.
White didn't immediately know who stole the car or who reported it missing. None of the teens in the vehicle was armed and none has been charged with a crime, police said.
It was the fourth time in seven months that a Denver officer fired at a moving vehicle after perceiving it as a threat. The incidents have prompted the department and an independent monitor for the city to review policies and training related to such shootings. White said his review would study cases over the last two years.