A troubled Colorado police department apologized after a group of Black girls were detained and forced to lie on a hot parking lot in a case of mistaken identity.
The incident occurred in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado, on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 2, in the parking lot of a nail salon, according to The Denver Post. Video taken by a witness showed the girls, aged 6 to 17 years old, lying on the ground screaming and crying as Aurora police officers stood over them. An adult woman was also cuffed and walked away.
A 12-year-old and 17-year-old were cuffed and made to lie on their stomachs while two unrestrained girls, aged 6 and 14, were nearby. The police eventually realized they pulled over the wrong car. They were responding to a call about a stolen vehicle with the same license plate number. However, the missing vehicle is a motorcycle with a Montana plate. The girls were riding in a vehicle with a Colorado plate.
Brittney Gilliam, the adult who was driving the car, told 9NEWS she was taking her daughter, sister and nieces out for a day at the nail salon but it was closed. The police’s treatment of her family upset Gilliam.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” Gilliam told the news station. “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 was different ways to handle it.”
Teriana Thomas, Gilliam’s niece, said the incident destroyed her trust in the police.
“It’s like they don’t care,” the 14-year-old said. “Who am I going to call when my life is in danger?”
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson apologized for the mix-up on Monday night.
“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,” Wilson said in a statement. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”
Despite the mea culpa, Wilson believes her officers acted appropriately in a “high-risk stop,” but she admitted the officers must be allowed to “have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.” Wilson added she has instructed her staff to look into “new practices and training.”
The Aurora Police Department has been under scrutiny since the death of Elijah McClain. McClain died in August 2019 after he was stopped by officers who were acting on a call about a masked man behaving erratically. During McClain’s detainment, three officers used a carotid control hold, which caused him to lose consciousness briefly before he resumed struggling with the officers. After first responders arrived, McClain was given a sedative and suffered two heart attacks on the way to the hospital. He died on Aug. 30, six days after the initial stop. The incident is currently under renewed investigation by state officials.