AURORA, Colo (CBS4) – At least 14 people are part of a lawsuit filed against the City of Aurora and the Aurora Police Department.
The lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, claims the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights were violated when police detained them while looking for a bank robbery suspect.
On June 3, 2012, officers descended on the intersection of Iliff and Buckley in southeast Aurora. They stopped traffic, pulled people out of their cars, handcuffed them and made them sit on a curb for hours. The officers searched cars and frisked people, all without a warrant.
There were guns drawn, and little explanation for what was going on.
“I was just panicked,” said Marci Strandberg, a mother who was at the intersection with her two children. “I was panicking and I was trying to get my kids out of the car. And we were ordered over to the curb, and we had to sit there until they let us leave with no explanation of what happened. Nothing.”
Aurora police say they were looking for a bank robbery suspect — a white man in his 40s. The suspect had worn a beekeeper’s suit during the robbery at a Wells Fargo bank at Hampden and Chambers. A GPS tracker in the stolen money directed officers to the intersection, but did not point out exactly which car the money was in.
Strandberg says she and her young children did not fit the description and that she should not have been caught up in the search.
“Catching a robber is a good thing. But they have to do it in the confines of the Constitution,” said David Lane, an attorney representing the people involved who are now suing the city and the police.
Lane says that the incident was an unreasonable search, which is a violation of the 4th Amendment. The plaintiffs have not declared what they want in damages, but Lane says Aurora Police declined to settle the complaint out of court.
Aurora police have not commented on the lawsuit, but Chief Dan Oates has defended his officers and the search in the past.
“That was the safest way to proceed to capture an armed bank robber,” Oates said after the incident.
The search did result in an arrest of a man that the FBI later called an official suspect.
– Written for CBSDenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith