Aurora Police Department issued an apology Monday after officers drew guns on a woman and four minors during a weekend investigation of a stolen car.
Brittney Gilliam was with her six-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister and 14- and 17-year-old nieces for a girl’s day at the nail salon when officers drew their weapons on them.
Gilliam, her sister, and 17-year-old niece were handcuffed while the police at the scene verifies if the car Gilliam was driving was the stolen vehicle.
A video taken by a bystander shows the 17-year-old and 12-year-old lying on their stomachs with their hands cuffed behind their backs, while the 14-year-old and the 6-year-old are lying next to each other on their stomachs.
The officers then determined that they had stopped the wrong car; Gilliam’s car had Colorado license plates, but the reported stolen vehicle was a motorcycle with the same license plate number from Montana.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” Gilliam fumed.
“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.”
Jennifer Wurtz, the bystander who took the video, said on camera that the police drew their guns as they initially approached the car.
Wurtz asked the officers if she could speak to the children, as they were scared, she was told to back up 25 feet as she was interfering in their investigation.
“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. I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover,” interim police chief Vanessa Wilson said.
The department said in a statement that the officers are trained to do a “high-risk stop” when stopping a stolen car, which includes drawing weapons, telling occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground.
Wilson, however, said that the officers must be allowed to have discretion to deviate from that procedure based on different scenarios they encounter.