Protests over Denver police killing of 16-year-old girl

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

DENVER (AP) — Some Denver residents are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate city police officers who shot and killed a 16-year-old girl who police say hit an officer with a stolen car.

They plan to rally outside the office of District Attorney Mitch Morrissey on Tuesday morning. Morrissey’s office normally decides whether to file charges in police shootings but many don’t trust it to handle the case because officers are rarely charged.

The calls for a special inquiry come a day after several dozen people with candles and protest signs gathered near the scene of the shooting to demand answers about the deadly encounter and remember the girl identified by friends as Jessica Hernandez.

Some held signs at Monday’s vigil decrying what they call police brutality.

One of the signs read, “Girls’ Lives Matter,” a play on the “Black Lives Matter” chant that became a rallying cry after the police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

“We’re angry about it. It’s another life taken by another cop,” 19-year-old Cynthia Valdez, a close friend and schoolmate of Hernandez’s, said at the vigil. “She was trying to find her talent. She wanted to find out what she wanted to be. … Who knows what she could have been?”

Few details were immediately released about the shooting.

Early Monday morning, an officer was called to check on a suspicious vehicle, and a colleague arrived after it was determined the car had been reported stolen, Police Chief Robert White said.

In a statement, police said the two officers then “approached the vehicle on foot when the driver drove the car into one of the officers.”

White said both officers then opened fire. The officer hit by the car was taken to a hospital with a leg injury.

Bobbie Diaz, whose 16-year-old daughter was in the car, said she was lying in bed when she heard four gunshots followed by an officer yelling, “Freeze! Get out of the car! Get down!”

Diaz said she came outside to see officers with their guns drawn pulling people out of the car, including Jessica.

“She seemed like she was not responding, not moving,” Diaz said. “They just yanked her out and handcuffed her.”

Meanwhile, Diaz said she heard another person screaming, “She’s dead! She’s dead!”

“I’m just trying to process everything. I’m just heartbroken for the girl’s family,” Diaz said. “How could something like this happen again?”

Another woman, Arellia Hammock, who has lived in the neighborhood for about a decade, said she heard three gunshots about 6:30 a.m. and then saw several police cars streaming down the street. Hammock said she understands one of the officers was injured, but “that’s still no reason to shoot.”

“They shouldn’t have stolen a car. But the cops are too fast on the gun,” she said. “You’ve got stun guns. You’ve got rubber bullets. Why do they have to shoot all the time?”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.