Officers from the Aurora Police Department racially profiled, handcuffed and detained an innocent Black family at gun point after allegedly mistaking their SUV for a stolen motorcycle. The Aurora Police Department issued an apology on Monday (Aug. 3) as video of the traumatic incident circulated the web.
Brittany Gilliam was taking her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14 and 17-year-old nieces to get their nails done on Sunday (Aug. 2), when police pulled up behind them with weapons drawn and demanded that they get out of the car. Video footage shows Gilliam and the girls on the ground in handcuffs. The children are heard screaming and crying during the incident.
Aurora PD terrorized a Black family at gun point after they “mistook” their car for a stolen one.
— A Black Socialist 🌹🏴☠️ (@SonOfAssata) August 4, 2020
Police allege that Gilliam’s car matched the description and license plate of a stolen vehicle. Her vehicle had been stolen in February but was found and returned by police within a day. In an interview with CNN, Gilliam stated that she offered to show cops her registration and insurance paperwork to prove that the car was not stolen.
APD released a statement explaining the apparent mix up. “We first want to offer our apologies to the family involved in a police stop of their vehicle yesterday, “the department said detailing how police were “notified of a stolen vehicle” in the area and found Gilliam’s vehicle matched the license plate number and the vehicle description. “The people in the car were ordered out onto the ground, and some were placed in handcuffs. Shortly after that, Officers determined that the car was not stolen.
“There is a stolen vehicle with the same plate information, but from a different state,” the statement continues. “The confusion may have been due, in part, to the fact that the stopped car was reported stolen earlier in the year. After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhand cuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized. An internal investigation has been opened, and an examination of training and procedures is underway.”
APD’s newly-appointed police Chief Vanessa Wilson said that she had been in contact with the family to personally apologize. “I have called (Gilliam’s) 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 department has come under fire for racial profiling, excessive force and police brutality, most notably after the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist who died after an encounter with police last year while he was walking home from the store. McClain was placed in two chokeholds after police confronted him. Officer body cam footage recorded McClain telling the officers that he couldn’t breathe. He later suffered cardiac arrest and died three days after the fatal run-in. In contrast, Colorado police safely apprehended white gunman James Holmes after he brutally murdered a dozen people at an Aurora movie theater in 2012.
More than a full year after McClain’s death, the case is being re-examined amid ongoing demands for justice and an online petition that has received more than 4.9 million signatures and counting. In June, four Aurora police officers were fired after photos surfaced of them mocking the deadly chokehold used on McClain.