One Black family in Colorado was headed to the nail salon when they were traumatized by Aurora police who mistakenly gunned them down.
After mistaking her SUV for a motorcycle that had been reported stolen, Aurora police have since apologized for detaining a Black mother and several children at gunpoint last Sunday.
Many have called the incident the latest example of systemic racism in law enforcement despite police blaming the incident on the department’s license plate scanner and how officers are trained to respond to suspected stolen vehicles.
“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,” Vanessa Wilson, who was named Aurora’s chief of police late Monday, said in a statement. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”
Police surrounded Brittney Gilliam’s SUV with weapons drawn on August 2 according to CNN while she was parked in the parking lot outside a nail salon she had planned on visiting.
Officers then ordered Gilliam, her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14 and 17-year-old nieces to exit the vehicles and lay on the ground. Gilliam then revealed how officers refused to inform her of why they had detained the group until she, her sister, and one of her nieces had been placed in handcuffs.
In video footage captured by bystanders, children can be heard crying and screaming while they lay on the ground at police officers’ feet as they watch an officer lead Gilliam away in handcuffs. “I want my mother,” Gilliam’s daughter sobs at one point.
Gilliam then said how the police did not ask for her license and registration despite reportedly detaining her on suspicion of a stolen vehicle during an interview with ABC affiliate Denver 7. Police later acknowledged the stolen vehicle they were looking for was not an SUV like Gilliam’s but a motorcycle with an out-of-state license plate similar to the one on Gilliam’s vehicle.
The Aurora Colorado NAACP chapter claimed last Sunday’s incident as “another sign that the problems within Aurora Police Department are systemic and embedded in their policing philosophy” in a statement released on Facebook.
“This family will be traumatized for the rest of their lives. The children crying on the ground while being handcuffed on concrete during a hot summer day is inhumane and reinforces why we say #Blacklivesmatter.”
But Wilson has pushed back on the claims the incident was an example of Aurora police racially profiling a Black family, revealing how Gilliam’s SUV had been reported stolen in February.
“I totally understand that anger, and don’t want to diminish that anger, but I will say it wasn’t a profiling incident,” Wilson told Denver 7. “It was a hit that came through the system, and they have a picture of the vehicle the officers saw.” An attorney for Gilliam revealed to CNN. Aurora police had returned Gilliam’s SUV to her in the day after she’d first reported it stolen in February and the issue had been closed.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.