No costs for Aurora law enforcement officials who held kids at gunpoint after a defective visitors obstruction
Aurora police officers who ordered frightened innocent children out of a car at gunpoint and held them, some handcuffed, on tarmac after botching a traffic obstruction will not be prosecuted, prosecutors said Friday.
Officers Darian Dasko and Madisen Moen stopped the car they believed had been stolen on August 2 and ordered the four children, ages 6, 12, 14, and 17 and the woman to take it to a nailing appointment bring to lie down on the floor. The video shows the children screaming in fear as the police handcuff the 12-year-old and the 17-year-old.
But the car was not stolen. Police were unable to verify a reading from a license plate scanner before stopping.
“What happened to the innocent inmates is unacceptable and avoidable, but that alone is not sufficient basis to prosecute the two officers involved in the first contact,” wrote Clinton McKinzie, assistant district attorney for the 18th judicial district, in his letter Explanation of the decision.
McKinzie said in his letter that the woman who drives the car, Brittney Gilliam, and the children were immaculate in the incident, and urged the Aurora Police Department “to immediately review their policies to ensure nothing like this ever happens happened again. ”
Aurora PD handcuffed and held family at gunpoint. pic.twitter.com/GkTWKFZqkI
– JJ Rodriguez (@Joshuajered) August 3, 2020
Dasko acted as the training officer for Moen, who graduated from the academy two days before the stop, the letter says. Dasko instructed Moen to walk “hand in hand” and he handcuffed Gilliam while Moen handcuffed two of the children. The two girls were handcuffed for four minutes, even after dispatchers confirmed Gilliam’s car had not been stolen. The smallest girl, wearing a pink tiara for the girls’ day out, crouched on the sidewalk next to one of the other children.
A license plate reader installed at an Aurora intersection had alerted police to the car, a blue SUV, because it had the same license plates as a stolen motorcycle from Montana. The officers were unable to verify that the SUV matched the physical description of the stolen vehicle.
David Lane, a Denver attorney who represents the family, said he wasn’t surprised by Friday’s news.
“When law enforcement investigates law enforcement, it always works well for law enforcement and this is no exception,” Lane said, adding that the family intends to file a lawsuit against the city as early as next week.
Lane said he hadn’t spoken to the family yet, but said they understand how the system normally works.
“Bunch of white cops molesting black people,” Lane said. “What does someone expect will happen?”
Internal disciplinary investigations into the officers’ actions will begin now after the district attorney’s decision is made, Aurora police spokeswoman Crystal McCoy said. All department heads are re-training license plate scanners, but McCoy said she did not know if any other policy or procedure changes were underway.
The 18th law firm sought the expertise of an outside law enforcement expert. Paul Taylor, assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, and former police officer, noted that the police officers’ actions were within Aurora’s police policy. The department’s policy was also in line with national police standards.
“I believe that given the information they relied on and the training they received, the officers involved in this incident were reasonable, prudent and safe in the selection and use of tactics, weapons and restrictions.” wrote Taylor in his findings. “All officers involved in the incident acted professionally, safely and respectfully with the driver and other occupants of the vehicle during the encounter.”
But the local police officers made several mistakes that day, McKinzie wrote.
“This is not to say that what happened to the occupants of the vehicle is okay or tolerable,” he wrote. “It is not. The errors in information exchange, training and process that resulted in these innocent individuals being exposed to this police encounter need further investigation and prevent them from recurring.”
The Denver Post reporter Sam Tabachnik contributed to this report.