The Aurora Police Department has issued an apology over a shocking video that shows police officers detain and draw weapons on a Black woman and four minors.
In an interview with CNN published Tuesday, victim Brittney Gilliam says that on Sunday, she, her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14- and 17-year-old nieces were looking for an open nail salon.
When the family was parked in a lot off of Buckley Road and E. Iliff Avenue, Gilliam says officers pulled up behind her vehicle with guns drawn and yelled for them to put their hands out of the window and to get out of the car.
Gilliam told the outlet that when they got out of the vehicle, they were told to lay facedown on the ground.
Cops ended up handcuffing Gilliam, her sister, and 17-year-old niece.
In a video shot by witness Jenni Wurtz, the children can be heard screaming and crying throughout the incident.
Police later told CBS 4 Denver that Gilliam’s SUV had the same license plate number as a stolen motorcycle — but the vehicle was from a different state. Authorities explained that the situation was a “high-risk” stop and that approaching the car with drawn guns was standard procedure.
Per CNN, Gilliam says she told police that her vehicle had been stolen in February, but that the situation had been cleared up. Gilliam says she was willing to show them the vehicle registration and insurance paperwork as proof.
Gilliam’s lawyer also told CNN that when Gilliam’s vehicle was stolen in February, it was returned to her the next day by Aurora Police.
In a statement obtained by ABC 7 News, interim police chief Vanessa Wilson apologized to the family for the unfortunate incident.
“We first want to offer our apologies to the family involved in the traumatic incident involving a police stop of their vehicle yesterday,” it read.
“We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is called a high-risk stop. This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground. But we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves. I have already directed my team to look at new practices and training,” it continued.
“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.”
The statement also acknowledged that Gilliam’s stolen-car incident in February may have contributed to the confusion.
“The confusion may have been due, in part, to the fact that the stopped car was reported stolen earlier in the year,” it said. “After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized.”
Wilson added that an internal investigation was underway by Monday evening.
However, Gilliam is not buying their apology.
“There’s no excuse for why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” she told 9News. “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 were different ways to handle it.”
“I’m livid. I’m angry,” Gilliam added to CBS 4 Denver. “Those kids are not OK. They’re never going to be OK. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be OK after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6-year-old.”
CBS 4 Denver reports that Gilliam’s attorney says he will file a federal lawsuit for excessive force.
ABC 7 News says Wurtz has also filed a complaint with internal affairs.
“I don’t want your apology. I want change,” Gilliam told CBS 4 Denver. “Better protocol, better procedures, because the way you did it yesterday was not it.”