Police in the city of Aurora, Colorado, where Elijah McClain died after a violent encounter with police, have issued an apology for detaining a group of young Black girls who they handcuffed and forced to lie on the ground of a parking lot during an investigation.
The police were investigating a stolen motorcycle fro Montana they say they mistook for the SUV from Colorado the girls’ aunt was driving.
A harrowing video taken by a bystander shows the children, ranging in age from six to 17 years old, lying on the hot pavement in handcuffs while screaming and crying in terror.
WARNING: video contains NSFW language
In the video, one of the smaller children can be heard weeping while saying:
“I want my father.”
Another can be heard begging the police to let her sister lie beside her.
The woman filming, Jennifer Wirtz, told The Denver Post that when the incident initially began, the officers had guns drawn on the children.
Aurora Police claim they mistook the children’s SUV for the stolen motorcycle because the two had the same license plate number, but the stolen one was a Montana plate while the one of the SUV was from Colorado.
Again, police pointed guns at a 6-year-old and handcuffed children and made them lie face down on hot pavement because the mistook an SUV from Colorado for a motorcycle from Montana because the “plates had the same number.”
Speaking to The Denver Post, the children’s aunt Brittney Gilliam—who was driving the SUV—was outraged by the way Aurora Police handled the situation.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way.”
“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.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told The Denver Post she apologized to the family and the department will be assisting them with therapy.
“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.”
Wilson also said she directed her team to explore better training and processes for investigations of this nature. On social media, people were outraged by the inadequacy of Wilson’s apology to address such a horrifying incident.
People felt any officer that needed training to learn not to treat a 6-year-old like this or who can’t tall the difference between a Colorado and Montana plate or between an SUV and a motorcycle should not be on the police force.
Many also noted this was the same department that arrested a heavily armed mass murderer without incident in 2012, but killed unarmed Elijah McClain who was not committing or charged with any crime.
That @AuroraPD treated this family like this, even after #ElijahMcClain, is further proof that the Aurora PD requires an aggressive overhaul and intervention from external experts on community and nonviolence. And #ReimaginePublicSafety. @denverpost https://t.co/D3nbKRoyPE
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) August 4, 2020
Police in Aurora, CO pinned these Black children – handcuffed! – to the ground. In a case of mistaken identity, but that is besides the point. They should all be fired. This is a racist disgrace! https://t.co/zk1ejaRJJZ
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) August 4, 2020
An apology is simply not enough. We will never heal in this country if this kind of outrageous behavior is tolerated. The children in this situation will be traumatized for a very long time. I hope Coloradans keep the story alive and demand real change. https://t.co/SaRBn1PKIh
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) August 4, 2020
12yo and 17yo with hands cuffed?
6yo and 14yo girls on stomachs?
This is sick and this family should sue Aurora PD for this trauma.
To youth at protests critics: If a kid is young enough to be criminalized, they’re old enough to attend protesthttps://t.co/FA1lTqJ2R7
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 4, 2020
Every single police officer here should be fired. Every single supervisor should be fired. Let them all sue to get their jobs back. These imbeciles stopped the wrong car and held children at gunpoint and handcuffed them!!!!! @AuroraPD pic.twitter.com/1Ct4iK0MCh
— Naveed Jamali (@NaveedAJamali) August 4, 2020
“I’m sorry ….” that’s pathetic. https://t.co/Rtbjk3bcvB
— Tay Anderson (@TayAndersonCO) August 4, 2020
Going to the nail salon while being Black. “Two were handcuffed. In the video, the Black girls, who are aged between six and 17 years old, can be heard screaming for their mom.
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) August 4, 2020
Aurora police apologize after Black children were detained, handcuffed in stolen car mixup.
“I’m sorry” does not make your mistreatment of blacks acceptable. You’re a racist cop whose behavior was caught.
Do it once and you’ll do it again. https://t.co/UtL3H6DxrT
— Blue (@NY_runaway) August 4, 2020
That interim chief has got to go. She's ineffective and Aurora has serious issues. It is kind of a cesspool and a blight on Colorado
— Jmc (@jmmcg1959) August 3, 2020
So, the police in Aurora think an apology is going to fix their systemic racism?
— Christine Hansen (@lgclhansen) August 3, 2020
The Aurora Police Department has already been under intense scrutiny for the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, a Black man who was put into a carotid hold, which cuts off blood to the brain, by Aurora PD and then injected with ketamine at their direction.
McClain later had a heart attack and was declared brain dead. He died after being taken off life support. The officers involved in his death were recently fired for posting a “joke” photo mocking McClain’s death.
Aurora has seen waves of protest in recent months as the death of George Floyd renewed anger over the lack of justice in the death of McClain. Incidents like this do not help.