Denver agrees to settlement with family of teenager killed by police in 2015

DENVER -- The city of Denver has agreed to pay $999,999 as part of a larger settlement with the family of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez, who was fatally shot by police more than two years ago.

Hernandez was killed in an alley between Niagara and Newport streets off East 25th Avenue in northeast Denver on Jan. 26, 2015.

The Denver Police Department tried to stop Hernandez from driving a stolen vehicle, saying she tried to run into them when two officers opened fire, hitting her three times.

Four other teenagers were in the vehicle, having fallen asleep after staying out all night.

The settlement was announced during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Denver City and County Building with police chief Robert White, city attorney Kristin Bronson and independent monitor Nick Mitchell.

“The decision to settle this did not have anything to do with the officers’ conduct,” Bronson said.

“The death of this young woman was tragic, and like so many in our community, I was deeply saddened by what transpired that day,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “My team and I have been in close contact with the Hernandez family and the officers involved since the incident.

"I know this is difficult for everyone and I am grateful for the thoughtful efforts to heal together."

While the Hernandez family, represented by the law firm of Rathod Mohamedbhai, never filed a lawsuit, the city said in the settlement that the death was “a tragedy for all involved” and  “the parties desire to work together to bring about positive change in the Denver community.”

“Jessie was beautiful in every way, and nothing will bring her back or heal our pain,” the family said in a statement. “We are encouraged that our agreement with Denver contains positive changes to help the community and its relations with the police department.

"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.”

Besides the monetary agreement, the settlement includes several concessions from the police department, including a policy that prevents the release of criminal background information on the people who are shot by officers.

Also under terms of the settlement, police will host a community meeting that focuses on justice in the Latino and LGBTQ communities. And the family will select someone to serve on a new committee to rewrite the department's use-of-force policy.

The department will also continue to train officers on the new policy of not shooting into moving vehicles.

A police investigation cleared the officers, Daniel Green and Gabriel Jordan, of wrongdoing in the shooting, and the Denver District Attorney's Office did not bring any charges.

The Denver City Council must sign off on the settlement before it's final.