Troubling footage of a black mother and four children being detained and handcuffed at gunpoint by police in Aurora, Colorado sparked outrage online amid accusations of unabated racial profiling.
The incident comes in the wake of a nationwide campaign over police treatment of Blacks, instigated partly by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in police custody.
Brittney Gilliam was with her six-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14- and 17-year-old nieces on Sunday when police pulled their weapons on them after mistakenly identifying the SUV she was driving as a stolen motorcycle.
Footage of the incident shared by eye witness Jenni Wurtz showed Gilliam and four children lying face down on the ground surrounded by officers, according to The Denver Post. The children can be heard crying in the footage as onlookers frantically tried to intervene.
“This really pisses me off. even the baby!!!! I really can’t with the police tactics, I just can’t,” @Vanessamiller27 wrote on Twitter in reaction to the disturbing footage.
“That poor child! She’s so scared and has no idea why this is happening to her family. A CHILD in HANDCUFFS. Fire these monsters – AT MINIMUM,” another wrote.
“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,” Wurtz told CBS Denver. “I went from seeing kids in a car to seeing a gun pointed at the kids in the car.”
Gilliam said she felt weak she couldn’t protect “my own kids from that happening to them.”
“When you’re a parent, you have to answer every time your child calls, cries, gets a boo-boo. You have to be there to pick up the pieces all the time. Not being able to pick up the pieces — with the officers dehumanizing them, putting them through that traumatic experience — it’s heartbreaking,” The Denver Post quoted her as saying.
Police in Aurora, Colorado on Monday issued an apology over the incident.
“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,” newly appointed Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said late Monday. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”
President of the Aurora branch of the NAACP Omar Montgomery said the incident hit the core of people on all levels and that the apologies are okay. “But I need a stronger statement, followed by action. Not just from police chief but from our mayor, our council and our city manager,” Montgomery said.
Aurora PD handcuff and held family at gunpoint. pic.twitter.com/GkTWKFZqkI— Joshua Rodriguez (@Joshuajered) August 3, 2020
According to the Aurora Police Department, Gilliam’s license plate matched up with one belonging to a motorcycle from a different state that had been reported stolen earlier Sunday morning, Huff Post reported. The motorcycle had Montana plates.
“There was a mistake there,” Wilson told The Denver Post. “I would have expected that they should have followed training and verified that prior to the stop.”
“We’re hoping that an officer is going to make the determination and say, “Hmm, something’s wrong here — I’m not going to put this little kid on the ground,’ ” Wilson said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”