Colorado police have apologized for shooting guns at a black woman and four children they mistakenly arrested.
The video of Aurora’s agents detaining Brittney Gilliam, along with her six-year-old daughter, nieces aged 14 and 17 and sister, 12, has sparked outrage.
This comes amid a national debate over police tactics and systemic racism.
The police department said officers mistakenly believed Ms Gilliam’s car had been stolen and had been trained to perform a “high-risk stop”.
The department has launched an investigation and will cover the cost of therapy for the children.
How did the incident unfold?
The family had gone to visit a nail salon on Sunday and were returning to their car after finding the salon closed.
Officers approached the vehicle with guns as the family climbed into the car.
In images posted by eyewitnesses on social media, officers can be seen surrounding the car as the four girls lie face down in the parking lot.
Ms Gilliam, her 12-year-old sister and her 17-year-old niece were also handcuffed.
Children can be heard crying and calling for their mothers as witnesses question police about the situation. The video was viewed more than four million times on Tuesday.
How did the police react?
After realizing the mistake, the police said they released everyone, explained the situation and apologized.
They said the car’s license plate matched the number of a stolen vehicle, but of a different condition. They said the misunderstanding could also be in part because Ms Gilliam’s car was reported stolen earlier in the year.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson apologized for the incident on Monday.
Ms Wilson said that when officers believed a vehicle had been stolen, they were trained to pull out their weapons and order all occupants to get out of the car and lie on the ground.
“But we need to allow our officers to exercise discretion and to step out of this process when different scenarios present themselves. I have already asked my team to review new practices and training. ”
She said she called the family to apologize and offer help – “especially for children who may have been traumatized by the events of yesterday”.
“I have contacted our Victim Advocates so that we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover. “
Ms Wilson, who was previously Aurora’s acting police chief, was selected for the post on a permanent basis Monday evening. She is the first woman to hold the post.
Ms Gilliam told CBS Denver on Monday that she did not want an apology from the police.
“I want change,” she said. “Better protocol, better procedures because the way you did it yesterday was not. ”
She added that the children were not doing well. “Would your kids be okay after this?” Have a gun drawn at them and placed on the ground. Mostly a six-year-old. ”
The Aurora Police Department has also been criticized for the death in August 2019 of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died in police custody.
Mr. McClain was strangled by officers. He was eventually sedated by a doctor who then noted that he had no pulse. A few days later, he was declared brain dead.
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A coroner’s autopsy found the cause of death to be undetermined. Officers were cleared of wrongdoing months later.
Mr. McClain’s case received renewed interest following the death of George Floyd and the protests against racism and police violence that followed. The state governor has appointed a special prosecutor to examine the case.
In July, Aurora police banned the strangulation used on Mr. McClain. New rules also state that officers must intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force.