Feb 6, 2024 - News

Black girls wrongfully detained by Colorado police settle case for $1.9M

Illustration of several police cruiser lights, some of them transparent.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Denver suburb of Aurora reached a $1.9 million settlement with a Black family of five after police wrongfully detained them at gunpoint in a parking lot of a nail salon in August 2020.

Why it matters: The settlement, announced Monday, marks the latest payout the City of Aurora has been forced to make over officers' excessive use of force.

  • In 2021, Aurora agreed to pay a $15 million settlement to the family of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in 2019 after officers put him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with ketamine.

Catch up quick: Four of the family members detained — girls ages 6, 12, 14 and 17 — were held face down on the ground and put in handcuffs, crying and screaming, as officers towered over them.

  • Brittney Gilliam, the mother of the 6-year-old, was detained after officers mistakenly thought she was driving a stolen S.U.V.
  • Roughly a dozen bystanders watched the ordeal unfold, and video footage of the incident was widely shared, sparking protests over racial injustice.

Of note: One of the two officers who drew their guns and handcuffed members of the family was initially suspended, per AP.

What they're saying: "Our hope is that police officers all over the country learn that law enforcement needs to use common sense, especially when dealing with children," Gilliam's attorney, David Lane, told Axios Denver in a statement.

  • "We believe that inexcusable racial profiling was involved in this case as well," he said.
  • "When the race of the occupants of a vehicle causes guns to be drawn, a line has been crossed which will result in huge consequences for the police."

The other side: The Aurora Police Department "remains committed to strengthening the relationship with the community through accountability and continuously improving how it serves the public," city spokesperson Matthew Brown told Axios Denver in a statement.

The big picture: The Aurora Police Department, whose chief resigned last month, has settled more than a dozen police brutality cases since 2003.

  • It remains under a state consent decree requiring sweeping changes, including improving its use-of-force policies and hiring more officers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Its officers are also slated to stand trial for use of force during the 2020 demonstrations in Denver after George Floyd's murder.
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