AURORA, Colo. (AP) – An investigation will determine if police officers in suburban Denver will face charges after handcuffing two Black girls and placing them on the ground while mistakenly suspecting they were riding in a stolen car, a prosecutor said Friday.
The incident Sunday attracted national attention after a video of the four girls from 12 to 17 being detained – some in tears – was posted on social media.
The traffic stop occurred in Aurora, where officers are also being investigated following the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after he was placed in a chokehold last year.
In the Sunday incident, officers eventually determined the car carrying the girls had the same license plate number as the one they were seeking from another state.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson and the department are cooperating with the investigation, District Attorney George Brauchler said.
He called the public accounts of the confrontation “very concerning.”
“Everyone is entitled to be treated equally under the law,” Brauchler said. “No one is above the law. If our investigation determines that the officers involved committed a crime, I will not hesitate to file charges and prosecute them.”
Aurora police apologized after the video taken by a bystander showed the girls in a parking lot with the 17-year-old and a 12-year-old lying on their stomachs with their hands cuffed behind their backs. A 14-year-old girl was lying next to the 6-year-old also on their stomachs next to the car.
They can be heard crying and screaming as officers stand with their backs to the camera. A woman on the other side of the car is seen being led away in handcuffs.
An officer eventually helped the handcuffed girls sit up but left them with their hands behind their backs.
Police eventually determined they had stopped the wrong car. Part of the reason for the mix-up might have been that the car had been reported as stolen earlier in the year, police said.
Driver Brittney Gilliam, who had taken her nieces, sister and daughter out for a day at a nail salon, has characterized the officers’ actions as police brutality.
Jennifer Wurtz, who shot the video, said on camera that the police drew guns as they initially approached the car.
Wilson, who was named chief of the Aurora Police Department this week after serving as its interim leader, told The Associated Press that she is committed to rebuilding the public’s trust.
She said Friday she welcomed the investigation, which coincides with an internal investigation she ordered.
“I have promised transparency to a community who not only demands it, but deserves it,” she said.
McClain died after he was stopped by police who put him in a chokehold before paramedics gave him a drug to calm him down. McClain suffered cardiac arrest and was later taken off life support.
The Colorado attorney general is investigating after a county prosecutor said last year there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the officers.
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