By Jeff Todd
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A family in Aurora is saying the police department fell short of the motto “to protect and serve.”
The case started on Nov. 4 at approximately 4 a.m. when Lori Peck’s son was on his way to work, turning from South Peoria Street onto South Parker Road. A man approached the car with a gun, pointed it toward the driver seat and demanded the car.
An iPhone was left in the car. The victim gave police his login for the “find my iPhone” app which showed the car headed into Denver.
“I don’t understand why they didn’t catch him. I really don’t,” said Peck. “(Aurora police) knew exactly where it was and they told us that we could go ahead and go home and they would call us if there were any developments.”
The Pecks continued to monitor the app and noticed the car was ditched near the Five Points neighborhood in Denver. Then it was taken to far eastern Aurora.
“Our immediate thought was it’s a chop shop,” Peck said.
Instead it was at the contracted Aurora impound lot.
Police never called to notify the family where the car was or what the status of the case was.
“They said you can come on down, the car has been released. To get the car out of the impound lot was $152,” Peck said.
Left behind by the suspect, and investigators, was the gun and ski mask used by the suspect. The gun turned out to be an air soft rifle.
“To leave a gun in a car that you turn back over to the owner. What if we hadn’t been honest?” Peck asked.
Aurora police told CBS4 they couldn’t comment on an open investigation, but did comment on department policy.
“We process hundreds of cars a month. Our officer did the right thing by notifying the proper channels; CSI to come process the car. In this case there was some miscommunication where the car didn’t get processed as it was supposed to. We are very appreciative the victim came out and said, ‘Here are the items,'” said Officer Diana Cooley with Aurora police.
Peck started questioning Aurora officials. The most responsive was her Councilman Charlie Richardson.
“He felt like we were wronged and that we shouldn’t have to pay that fee. In fact, he offered to pay the fee to me out of his own pocket,” Peck said.
Richardson told CBS4 he finds the case “outrageous.” And he ended up donating $152 to a children’s diabetes organization in the Pecks’ name.
Richardson said he started conversations inside city hall but couldn’t get any more support for the Peck’s.
“One of the emails stated ‘This is city policy, we cannot reimburse this. It would set a bad precedent,'” Peck said.
One email Peck provided CBS4 from a commander inside Aurora police said the case would be used as training to clear up miscommunications.
“When we have issues like this brought to our attention we’re going to make sure it’s brought back down to the level where the error was committed,” Cooley said.
Lori Peck says there were three major issues with Aurora police in this case, including charging crime victims impound fees, something other cities do not do.
“They should have found the gun; they should have processed the car correctly. An armed carjacking is a fairly violent offense that should garner a little bit more concern and care. I think they should have been able to apprehend the suspect. They knew where he was from almost the moment he stole the car,” she said.
The city of Aurora does offer an appeals process for impound fees.
“The victim does have the option to take this to a hearing in front of a judge,” Cooley said.
Peck said the money isn’t an issue for her, but the policy is.
“I didn’t feel confident that the appeal process would really do anything for me,” Peck said.
Richardson agreed, saying multiple trips to hearings at city hall is a disservice to victims. He told CBS4 he’s hoping the city can change its policy, but early conversations with other city officials haven’t been substantial.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.