Woman Handcuffed in Police Car Hit by Train Receives $8.5 Million Settlement

A woman who sued two Colorado cities reached an $8.5 million settlement this week after she was seriously injured during a 2022 traffic stop when a train hit the police car she was in handcuffed while parked on the railway tracks.

Yareni Rios-Gonzalez will receive equal payments from the cities of Platteville and Fort Lupton as part of the settlement agreement. Officers from both cities had responded to a call about a road rage incident that occurred in September. 16, 2022.

Rios-Gonzalez had stopped her car just in front of a railroad track after being stopped by a Platteville police officer. Police body camera footage showed the officer parking his patrol vehicle in the middle of the railroad tracks and two Fort Lupton officers arriving to help.

Rios-Gonzalez was then handcuffed and locked inside the patrol vehicle when a train rushed toward him a short time later. She then sued Platteville, Fort Lupton and the three police officers involved in the incident. The settlement money will be paid by the losing cities, a lawyer representing two of the officers confirmed to the Washington Post.

Paul Wilkinson, Rios-Gonzalez’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening. He told Colorado Public Radio that the settlement was “a hard-won result.”

“She is still recovering from some of the physical and emotional impacts that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life,” Wilkinson said of his client.

Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer apologized to Rios-Gonzalez Wednesday in a statement to The Post. The Platteville Police Department “remains committed to providing the best possible service to all who reside, visit and travel in our community,” it said in the release, adding that the settlement was in the best interest of residents of Platteville.

Fort Lupton Police Chief William Carnes said in a news release Tuesday that the settlement was voluntary and “to the mutual satisfaction” of those involved, adding that it “recognizes the seriousness of this matter and allows all parties to move forward.”

The night of the crash, a Platteville police officer stopped Rios-Gonzalez after receiving a report of a “road rage incident involving a firearm” earlier in the day, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Two officers from Fort Lupton arrived to assist with what the agency called a “high-risk traffic stop.”

A police officer then handcuffed Rios-Gonzalez — who could be heard on body camera footage asking what was happening — and locked her in the Platteville police vehicle. A train horn sounded in the distance as officers searched Rios-Gonzalez’s vehicle, where KTVZ reported finding a gun in the center console.

Shortly after, a train struck the vehicle with Rios-Gonzalez inside.

“Oh my God. Oh my God!” A female officer can be heard saying on body camera footage as the train hits the patrol car.

Rios-Gonzalez suffered head trauma, the Associated Press reported. She later pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of threatening, her lawyer told the AP.

Two officers were charged in the incident and both were fired by their departments. Jordan Steinke, the Fort Lupton officer who placed Rios-Gonzalez inside the car, was convicted of assault and reckless endangerment in July, and was sentenced in September to probation under supervision and to work of general interest. Pablo Vazquez, the Platteville officer, pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in December and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation, the AP reported.

Steinke, at his sentencing hearing in September, offered Rios-Gonzalez an emotional apology.

“What happened that night haunted me,” she said, adding, “I remember your screams and screams.”

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