(CBS4) – District Attorney George Brauchler has launched an investigation into an incident on Sunday in which Aurora police officers ordered an African American mother and four girls onto the hot pavement at gunpoint in a mix-up over a stolen vehicle. He says it’s “our system’s obligation for all citizens to be treated with dignity and respect during encounters with law enforcement.”
A bystander caught the incident on video that for days now has been drawing outrage in the community and across the country.
“When I first saw the images I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” State Senator Rhonda Fields said about the video.
Fields is among those now calling for the four officers involved to be reprimanded.
“They need to be held accountable, as far as I am concerned they should be fired and they should be charged with child abuse and indifference because they handled the situation without an ounce of compassion,” said Fields.
Brittney Gilliam was taking her 6-year-old daughter and three other Black girls to get their nails done when officers mistook the license plate on her car for one that was stolen. She says the girls, who were crying as police handcuffed them, are traumatized.
“Public accounts of the incident in a parking lot near Iliff and Buckley are very concerning,” said Brauchler, the 18th Judicial DA, in a prepared statement on Friday.
Brauchler says he “ordered his office to obtain and review all evidence related to the Aurora police incident of Aug. 2 to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.” He said his office will work quickly to complete their report and that the Aurora Police Department is cooperating with the investigation. APD has also launched an internal affairs investigation into the matter.
“Everyone is entitled to be treated equally under the law. No one is above the law. If our investigation determines that the officers involved committed a crime, I will not hesitate to file charges and prosecute them,” said Brauchler.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who has already publicly apologized to the family and announced an internal investigation into the incident, issued a statement supporting the DA’s investigation: I have spoken with Police Chief Vanessa Wilson about an unfortunate incident last weekend in which a family was stopped by Aurora Police after an erroneous report of a stolen vehicle, including several members of the family being handcuffed. We both believe this was improper and traumatizing to the children involved. What happened is being thoroughly investigated, and I will continue to follow up to make sure changes in training and procedures take place. I am sorry for the pain, fear and confusion this family unnecessarily faced.
Fields and a number of other state lawmakers who were key in passing the police accountability bill also speaking out about the needed for widespread change.
“We really have to look at the culture and the climate of policing,” she said. “If we don’t address it now it’s going to repeat itself.
On Wednesday, Bishop Jerry Demmer of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance told CBS4 that “every officer that was there should be fired” and that if the occupants of the car had been white the situation wouldn’t have evolved the way it did. Demmer said there should be a federal investigation into the matter.