WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4)– Police across the northern part of the Denver metro area are investigating what they call a revenge crime spree. Investigators believe one group is deliberately stealing cars following the officer-involved shooting death of Jessie Hernandez.
The 17-year-old was driving a stolen silver Honda on Jan. 26 when police approached and said she started to drive toward them. That’s when the officers fired — striking and killing her.READ MORE: Permanent Memorial To King Soopers Shooting Victims To Be Built In Boulder
Police blame the same auto theft ring Hernandez was once tied to and believe members of the group are acting in remembrance of Hernandez and in protest of her death.
Since her death, protesters have demanded justice. They also dispute reports that she was trying to run over the officers in an attempt to escape.
Police confirm that car thefts have more than doubled in Thornton and Westminster in recent months. They have documented 126 thefts so far this year compared to 70 during the same time frame last year.READ MORE: 3 Indicted In 12 Armed Robberies At Home Depot, Harbor Freight And Other Stores
“There are a lot of innocent people suffering from it, certainly not an effective way to demonstrate their displeasure,” said Westminster Police spokeswoman Cheri Spottke.
The thieves are targeting the same vehicle make and model, leaving the cars abandoned with little or no damage.
“We don’t want to give them the glory,” said Spottke. “Unfortunately they’re targeting people who have no, they’re not police officers, they’re not responsible for any of this so why are you harming innocent people?”
Police in Westminster have made some arrests but won’t reveal the suspects’ identities or exactly what type of car the thieves are targeting, because they hope to round up more suspects.MORE NEWS: Colorado Weather: Latest Totals From Heavy, Wet Mid-April Snowstorm
“This is a way to say, ‘Hey, let’s throw an egg in law enforcement’s face, we’ve stole over however many’ but the message I want to get out is we are also making arrests,” said Spottke. “We can only go based on what people tell us. Some of the people we have arrested, that’s the indication that they’re giving us.”