Funeral set for lesbian Latina teen shot to death by Denver police officers

Jessica Hernandez

Jessica Hernandez

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Friends and family are planning to gather for the funeral of a 17-year-old girl shot to death by Denver police officers.

Jessica Hernandez

Jessica Hernandez

A funeral Mass for Jessica Hernandez will be held Saturday at a church north of Denver, near where she grew up.

Police say Hernandez was shot Jan. 16 after she drove a stolen car toward an officer in a residential alley in Denver. Police Chief Robert White has said officers repeatedly told Hernandez and four other teens to get out of the vehicle before two officers opened fire.

A teen passenger in the car who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns has disputed the official account, saying Hernandez lost control of the vehicle because she had already been shot and was unconscious.

The passenger also said the officers did not yell commands until after the shots were fired.

The shooting sparked angry protests and came amid a national debate about police use of force fueled by racially charged episodes in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. Hernandez’s family and others have called for an outside prosecutor to investigate what happened.

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The Colorado Latino Forum has said conflicting police accounts of the incident are raising more questions.

It said that because Hernandez was young, Latina and gay, she “carried three identities that have often suffered discrimination at the hands of law enforcement.”

On Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock canceled a speech to a gay rights conference because of protests at the event over the shooting.

District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office has promised a thorough investigation and has asked protesters for patience. But Hernandez’s relatives say they don’t trust the office to do a fair and timely investigation, and that the department has a history of exonerating its officers.

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