Aurora police apologize after handcuffing crying girls in stolen auto mixup

Cheryl Sanders
August 6, 2020

However, interim police chief Vanessa Wilson said officers must be allowed to have discretion to deviate from that procedure based on different scenarios they encounter.

A spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department said that the vehicle matched the license plate number and a description that they were provided in reference to a stolen vehicle.

She told local station 9News that she had taken her family to get their nails done before realizing the salon was closed.

Wurtz filed a complaint with internal affairs.

Police eventually responded-telling her to back away because she was interfering in an investigation, according to The Denver Post.

She added, "There's no excuse why you didn't handle it a different type of way".

"You could have even told them 'step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.' There was different ways to handle it", she said.


Almost one year ago, Aurora police tackled 23-year-old Elijah McClain as he was walking down the street and placed him into a chokehold, just moments before paramedics injected the Black man with a heavy sedative. Last month, two officers were fired over photos reenacting the violent arrest near a memorial for McClain, who died days later.

Following a national outcry in recent weeks, Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has ordered an independent review of the man's death.

The driver of the vehicle the family was riding in told the Denver Post that even she, who is not a police officer, is aware of all the other ways that cops could have reacted to the situation better.

The officer tells McClain to "Stop tensing up", and "Relax, or I'm going to have to change this situation", as McClain tries to escape the officer's grip.

David Lane, an attorney, is representing the Gilliam family.

Jennifer Wurtz, who shot the video, said on camera that the police drew guns as they initially approached the auto.

Brittney Gilliam was on a girls' trip with her nieces, sister and daughter to get their nails done Sunday morning when suddenly, in a parking lot, they were surrounded by police.


The incident comes amid a nationwide reckoning over police treatment of Blacks, spurred partly by the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. They were commanded to get down on the hot asphalt as surrounding officers held them at gunpoint and handcuffed them. The vehicle in question had, indeed, been stolen back in February, but it had been recovered and handed back to the Gilliam family a day after being reported stolen.

According to police officials, a motorcycle with the same license plate number but from Montana was actually the vehicle reported stolen.

Police detained and handcuffed a Black mother and four children after mistaking their SUV for a stolen motorcycle from another state.

'This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the vehicle and lie prone on the ground'. Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground.

"We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen auto, they should do what is called a high-risk stop. I have already directed my team to look at new practices and training", Wilson said in the statement.

"I have called the family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday's events", Wilson wrote. At that time, police handcuffed Gilliam, her sister and niece. She said she offered to show them the vehicle registration and insurance paperwork.

Harper, who joined the Aurora Police Department in 2002 and was assigned to the Traffic Bureau, is the fifth Aurora police officer involved in an alcohol-related issue over the past year.


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