The district attorney is investigating the mistaken detention of the videotaped black family by Aurora police
The Arapahoe County District Attorney announced Friday that he will be reviewing the detention of a black family in Aurora on Sunday, during which officials pulled their guns and forced four girls ages 6, 12, 14 and 17 to face the Laying face down in a parking lot while they were conducting an investigation report of a stolen car.
“Public reports of the incident in a parking lot near Iliff and Buckley are very worrying,” 18th District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement. “Everyone has the right to be treated equally under the law. Nobody is above the law. If our investigation reveals that the officers involved have committed a crime, I will not hesitate to bring charges and prosecute them. “
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson and her department are working together on the investigation, prosecutors said.
In a statement, Wilson said she welcomed the review.
“I also recognize and share the concern about what happened, which is why I immediately ordered an internal affairs investigation,” the statement said. “I promised a community that it not only demands transparency, it deserves it.”
Wilson said earlier this week she would be investigating the department’s training and procedures in light of the incident. The criminal investigation will be separate, said Brauchler.
The detention of a black woman and her daughter and niece in the Aurora parking lot met national criticism after a video recorded by a viewer showed children on the ground crying and pleading for their mothers.
Brittney Gilliam was taking the girls to a nail salon when they were approached in the parking lot by Aurora officers who drew their guns and handcuffed some of them. Gilliam was arrested in the back of a patrol car.
Police mistakenly drove Gilliam’s SUV after receiving reports of a stolen vehicle with matching license plates. However, those signs belonged instead to a stolen motorcycle from Montana.
Aurora PD handcuffed and held family at gunpoint. pic.twitter.com/GkTWKFZqkI
– Joshua Rodriguez (@Joshuajered) August 3, 2020
Wilson said officials made two mistakes that day. First, they couldn’t look up the license plate number in the National Crime Information Center to verify the information on the stolen motorcycle. She also said officers shouldn’t keep the children on the ground, despite the department’s guidelines requiring officers to treat interactions with reported stolen vehicles as high-risk.
The officers, Wilson said, should have changed their tactics when they realized something was wrong.
Gilliam told the Denver Post that the incident never happened to a white family and that she now understands the protesters demanding a move to a police station that has been besieged by scandal in recent months.
The department received heavy criticism over the past year, especially after Elijah McClain became a household name in national police protests that broke out in May after the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. McClain died last August after a violent encounter with Aurora police.
The recent incident prompted the Aurora Legislative Delegation to issue a statement on behalf of Gilliam and her family expressing their outrage. They also called for reforms and pledged to do more for police reform at the state level.
“We expect policing in our communities to reflect our values. It doesn’t have much too often in Aurora, ”the statement said. “The Aurora Police Department needs a fresh start and we are encouraged by the partnership we have built with Chief Wilson. We urge them to move quickly to change the culture of the armed forces, hold officials accountable and bring the much-needed reforms to the department. “