*One year after Aurora, Colorado police officers put teen Elijah McClain into a fatal chokehold, then posed for photos mocking the tactic, another police incident involving Black teens and children has gone viral and has again caused controversy for the department.
Brittany Gilliam says she was scrolling through her phone to find another nail salon when an Aurora police officer approached her car. She said, “He proceeded to handcuff me and I saw him handcuff the kids, so I started getting angry. ‘Why are you handcuffing kids for?’” Her 12-year-old sister and 17-year-old niece were handcuffed while lying on the parking lot asphalt. Her 6-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old niece were also obeying police commands to lay on the ground.
Watch entire raw footage of the incident filmed by witness Jenni Wurtz below:
Aurora police say they conducted a high-risk stop because of a suspected stolen vehicle. Gilliam’s car had the same license plate number, but wrong state, for the vehicle officers were looking for. Also, the suspected stolen vehicle was reportedly a motorcycle.
“I’m livid. I’m angry,” said Gilliam. “Those kids are not OK. They’re never going to be OK. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be OK after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6 year old.”
Wurtz told Denver’s CBS4 of her recording, “I actually didn’t know what I was watching when I first started seeing what was happening. I’d never seen a gun that close. I went from seeing kids in a car to seeing a gun pointed at the kids in the car. I called my husband and said ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at,’ and he said ‘Hang up and start recording.’”
“They were screaming for their mom and again, this was all a big misunderstanding, so in their mind they’re getting their nails done. It was all happening so fast and something about it was like, this is not right. These kids have no idea what is happening,” Wurtz said.
Watch CBS4’s report of the incident below or here.
Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson released a statement about the incident to CBS4:
“We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is called a high-risk stop. This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground. But we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves. I have already directed my team to look at new practices and training. 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.”
Gilliam’s attorney says he will file a federal lawsuit for excessive force.
“I don’t want your apology. I want change,” she said. “Better protocol, better procedures because the way you did it yesterday was not it.”