Earlier this month, a freight train hit a police cruiser in Platteville, Colorado, while a woman sat handcuffed inside. According to the Denver Post, a group of officers — from the Platteville and Fort Lupton police departments — had detained Yareni Rios-Gonzalez, 20, after a traffic stop and left her in their SUV while they searched her truck for weapons. But the vehicle was stopped on a set of railroad tracks, and shortly after police escorted her inside, a train came barreling toward it, whistles blasting. Body- and dash-cam footage shows the moment when the train slammed into the car, the officers panicking in the background and shouting at one another to get out of the way.
Though she sustained serious injuries, Rios-Gonzalez survived. She remains hospitalized in Greeley, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Her attorney, Paul Wilkinson, told the Post that Rios-Gonzalez has already undergone surgery for a broken arm, and that she suffered nine broken ribs, a fractured sternum, injuries to her back and head. Also, she was terrified: “She saw it coming and could hear the horn,” Wilkinson told the paper. “She was trying to get the police officers’ attention, screaming at them. She tried unlocking the door. She had her hands behind her back and was frantically trying to unlock the door.”
The collision occurred around 7:30 p.m. on September 16, near U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 38, with the police car planted in the middle of a railroad crossing. Authorities say they pulled over Rios-Gonzalez because of a “road-rage incident” that involved a firearm. After they stopped her, two of the officers ordered Rios-Gonzalez out of the truck she was driving, and commanded her to put her hands above her head. Another officer handcuffed her and brought her over to the police car, not answering her questions about the reasons for the stop.
“What’s going on, why am I being arrested?” Rios-Gonzalez can be heard asking in the video. “Ma’am, what’s going on? I’m so confused.”
With Rios-Gonzalez sitting in the SUV, officers continued their search of the truck, speculating that she “could’ve” tossed a weapon out her window, though the officer driving behind her admittedly didn’t see anything like that. Still, “it took her a very long time to pull over,” he explained. The train’s horn sounds in the background. As officers turn to look, the footage shows the train plowing into the parked car. One yells at his colleagues to “stay back,” and just after the collision, a Platteville officer appears to shout, “Hey, was she in there? Was she in there? Was she in there?” A Fort Lupton officer confirmed that she was, and radioed for medical assistance. It took the officers about 15 seconds to respond to the crash.
The Cut has contacted the Platteville Police Department for comment on the incident, and will update if we hear back. In a statement, Fort Lupton Police Chief John Freyer said the investigation into the incident was being handled by the CBI (“standard in any incident where an in-custody person suffers serious injury”) and that officers “immediately summoned medical assistance and began life-sustaining measures.” The body-cam footage suggests they also got back to searching Rios-Gonzalez’s car, where they ultimately found a gun in the center console. (In Colorado, that’s not necessarily illegal.)
Now, per the CBI’s statement, a trio of agencies are investigating: Fort Lupton is handling the “criminal investigation” into the alleged road rage, Colorado state police are looking into the crash, and the CBI is investigating the “Serious Bodily Injury to the individual while in police custody.” The Platteville officer has reportedly been placed on paid administrative leave, while according to the New York Times, Fort Lupton police are seeking an arrest warrant. We have also contacted the Weld County District Attorney’s office for comment and/or clarification, and will update if we hear back.
As to the SUV’s location, attorney Wilkinson has questions. “I don’t think you ever park on a train track. Ever,” he added. “That would have avoided the whole situation. You just never park on a train track. You have to park somewhere else.”