AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora police had their man cornered. On Sept. 24 they responded to a home in the Conservatory neighborhood for what they described as a “felony child abuse investigation.” They said the homeowner, Eric Burns, 39, “had a valid misdemeanor no bond DV (domestic violence) warrant out of Denver.” Additionally, APD believed Burns had assaulted his son and abused his daughter.
The SWAT team was called and trained their weapons on the house.
“It was scary,” said neighbor Jasmine Staats who watched the standoff unfold from her home on the next block. SWAT team members were on scene for hours, negotiating with Burns to surrender. They believed there were guns in the house and that he was armed.
After several hours, Burns released his 6-year-old daughter. Police negotiators continued trying to coax Burns to give himself up. But when that didn’t happen, after about four hours, an internal Aurora police report says “Decision made to vacate.” Dozens of officers, negotiators and command officers packed up and left Burns in his home.
“We were pretty shocked,” said Staats, “We thought for sure they would have arrested someone. It’s quite concerning they would do that.”
“If someone’s got a warrant out for their arrest, why wouldn’t they have been arrested?” asked Staats.
It turned out that Burns also was wanted for a felony kidnapping warrant issued by Black Hawk police, although Aurora police said they did not know about that warrant on Sept. 24.
Aurora police say they have not been able to locate Burns since the standoff.
The department declined to be interviewed but released a statement saying, “Members of our community and across the nation have made it very clear that they want their police department to respond differently to some incidents, particularly when there is a possibility of using serious force against a subject.” The statement went on to say “avoiding unnecessary confrontations was now a top priority for the department.”
“Sometimes this means walking away from a situation and utilizing investigative resources to apprehend persons at a later time,” said the APD statement.
Craig Miller described what he saw from across the street as a “huge police presence.”
He told CBS4 that “after four hours and that kind of police response you kind of assume it’s ending with them taking somebody into custody. Pretty surprising that after that kind of response and that kind of action that there wasn’t an arrest made.”
Miller said he had mixed feelings about police walking away and leaving a wanted suspect in his neighborhood. He cited the Elijah McClain case and other police confrontations that have ended with a loss of life as the other side of the coin.
“You’ve got all these situations where force has ended deadly. And you know, I don’t want to see that. I don’t want that to happen ever again. Part of me was expecting them to just knock down the door and go in, but who knows how that could have ended? It could have ended with him being hurt, the police officers being hurt, a little girl being hurt.”
CBS4 has not been able to reach Eric Burns.
The Conservatory neighborhood incident marked the second time in September that CBS4 learned of Aurora police leaving a wanted suspect after a standoff, in what the department calls de-escalation techniques. In early September, Aurora police officers twice walked away from arresting a 47-year-old man who was terrorizing residents of an apartment complex, even after the man allegedly exposed himself to kids, threw a rock through one resident’s sliding glass door, was delusional, was tasered by police and forced the rescue of two other residents from a second floor room in an apartment he had ransacked.