While the judicial system has convicted and sentenced the drunk driver who actually hit and killed state trooper Jaimie Jursevics’ along I-25 near Castle Rock, 9Wants to Know is asking if other troopers should be trained differently in light of what happened a year ago Tuesday.
“It is with 100 percent certainty in my mind that Jaimie Jursevics would still be here today had it not been for the actions of a careless reckless driver who chose to drive drunk that night,” Major Steve Garcia said, Commander of the Training Services Branch of CSP.
A judge agreed when he sentenced that driver to 8 years in prison.
Eric Henderson, a decorated Army colonel, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced last June. He agreed to a plea deal, his attorney said at the time, to spare Jursevics’ family from suffering through a trial.
The end of the criminal case opened up court documents previously not made public by prosecutors in the case. In those documents, we learned more details about what led to the accident. Investigators wrote that Jursevics’ was “standing on the roadway attempting to simultaneously slow speeds and have vehicles move to lane two”.
After reading the court records, 9Wants to Know started asking CSP if that is how troopers are trained to react in a situation like this.
“Do you train troopers to use flashlights when directing traffic?” 9Wants To Know investigator Anastasiya Bolton asked Garcia, who is in charge of training at CSP.
“Yes,” he said.
“Do you train your troopers to stop drunk drivers with a flashlight?” Bolton asked.
“Depends on the situation, but possibly yes,” Garcia said.
Per CSP policy, troopers will wear a reflective vest when it’s safe and practical to do so. Garcia said, “people wearing ANSI vests are a critical component to safety out there.” Trooper Jursevics was not wearing a vest. None of the court records explain why.
CSP provided 9Wants To Know documents showing troopers are trained to use flashlights to direct traffic. But they don’t have specifics in their manual about using flashlights to stop drunk drivers.
“Stopping a DUI driver who’s coming, who’s being called in as a REDDI report, a possible drunk driver, coming down an interstate when you’re outside your vehicle, is that common to do?” Garcia asked rhetorically.
“No that’s not common,” he said. “But I will tell you this: the extreme dynamic nature of our job, that’s not the first time that’s ever happened and I can assure you that will probably never be the last.”
We asked law enforcement experts around the country about the use of flashlights in similar situations. We found it's common.
“The most dangerous terrain for law enforcement is a freeway,” said former Phoenix Police Chief and a long-time leader inside the Dallas Police Dept., Daniel Garcia. “The fact that tragically she lost her life on this issue, doesn’t make it a wrong tactic, she was trying to do her job and she probably saved lives.”
Rose memorial for fallen Colorado State Trooper Jaimie Jursevics
Dr. Ron Martinelli, former officer turned forensic criminologist in California said the flashlight is useful. But said CSP should give troopers strategies to better manage risks associated with their job.
“You don’t completely outlaw something,” Martinelli said. “But you say it’s strongly discouraged that you will go out in the middle of the roadway, absent cover or protection without a reflective vest and with your flashlight during conditions where traffic is at normal or aggravated speeds and attempt to direct traffic.”
Martinelli thinks CSP should review its policy, “because if you don’t,” he said, “If you don’t strongly discourage this behavior, it is absolutely going to happen again.”
Bolton asked CSP’s Major Garcia if CSP has made any changes it its training in light of Jursevics’ death.
“I’m not going to say we won’t re-train, I’m not going to say we won’t re-evaluate as time goes on, but to make a wholesale change at this point in time, I don’t think, I don’t think we have enough to make a wholesale change,” he said.
As with all troopers lost in the line of duty, state patrol says it's using Jursevics’ story as a lesson for all new cadets.
“We’ve learned a lot obviously,” Garcia said. “The piece we want to leave our cadets with, when we train them, is treat very situation very seriously and be very vigilant and aware of your surroundings.”
On November 15, 2015, Eric Henderson, a decorated Army colonel was driving drunk on I-25, heading home after the Broncos game to Payton, Colorado.
Henderson had been drinking all day, before, during and after the game. All this is detailed in the criminal case against Henderson. In June of 2016, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and tampering with the evidence.
Henderson’s first of three blood tests showed 0.150 BAC, three times the level at which a driver is considered impaired and nearly twice the level at which a driver is considered intoxicated.
The night of Nov. 15, 2015, CSP Jursevics was along I-25, assisting another trooper with a crash. She was parked behind him, her car lights on, trying to get people approaching to slow down and move over.
Drivers on I-25 saw Henderson weaving in traffic and called in REDDI reports. REDDI stands for Report Every Drunken Driver Immediately.
CSP dispatch gave Jursevics REDDI reporter Kevin Buckley’s number. The two were on the phone as Henderson was heading her way, Buckley behind him.
“She said OK, she’s going to stay on the phone with me, she said she was assisting a trooper, she couldn’t leave the accident but she was going to try to stop him from the side of the road,” Buckley later told investigators. “I was on the phone with her the whole time, I tell her in the distance I can see her flashlight, she’s waving it from side to side. I said, he’s going to pass you in the next 5 seconds, that’s when I heard her scream. I saw the flashlight go into the air.”
The Colorado State Patrol says in Colorado we have a “move over” law. It requires drivers to change lanes when emergency vehicles are on the road. If pulling over is not possible, drivers are required to at least slow down.
Jursevics was helping another trooper responding to an accident on the road.
Garcia said people not obeying the law, as what appears was the case in the Henderson case, is a significant problem.
“If you’re unable to change lanes, slow down, slow down, to avoid hitting other troopers,” Garcia said. “It could be family members that are involved in an accident that may be on the side of the roadway.”
Jursevics husband is suing Henderson and the bar near the football stadium for Jursevics wrongful death. The suit alleges the bar served Henderson drinks while was visibly intoxicated.