Colorado Black woman detained at gunpoint with daughter, nieces sues city
Brittney Gilliam has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora and police officials, naming the police chief a defendant.
Brittney Gilliam has officially filed a lawsuit against the city of Aurora, CO, and the Aurora Police Department after she and her family were held at gunpoint during a traffic stop in August 2020.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit has been filed and names five Aurora police officers and Police Chief Vanessa Wilson as defendants. In the lawsuit, Gilliam claimed she and her family were targeted, unlawfully searched, and detained due to their race.
Earlier this month, we reported the video, captured by a third party, showing Gilliam, and her nieces, sister, and daughter, whose ages ranged from 6 to 17, laying on their stomachs, some in tears. The 12-year-old and 17-year-old girls were seen placed in handcuffs. They can be heard crying and screaming while a woman is seen being led away in handcuffs.
The video was reviewed by the district attorney’s office, who found no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted unlawfully. However, charges were not filed against the officers involved. According to the report, police are instructed to draw their guns and put passengers on the ground when dealing with a suspected stolen car.
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said the officers should have taken different actions when they became aware the car was not stolen and that there were children on board. One officer involved, named Madisen Moe, had only graduated from the academy days before, and the other, Darian Dasko, was her field training officer.
The Aurora Police Department said the officers conducted a “traffic stop,” believing that Gilliam’s car had been stolen. They later realized that Gilliam’s car shared the license plate number from a stolen motorcycle from a different state.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Clinton McKinzie called the video “disturbing” and urged the department to review its policies. “What happened to the innocent occupants is unacceptable and preventable,” McKinzie said.
At the time, David Lane, an attorney for Gilliam, said he was not surprised there were no charges filed and revealed plans to sue.
“When white cops point guns at small Black children, there are no consequences in America,” Lane said according to theGrio.
Gilliam tells NBC that the girls have experienced serious emotional trauma and stress since being detained last August. The lawsuit revealed the four minors have resorted to weekly therapy to manage the trauma caused by the incident.
“The deplorable fact that multiple Aurora police officers held innocent Black children handcuffed and at gunpoint, and multiple other officers did not intervene, is evidence of the profound and systematic problem of racism and brutality within APD,” said the lawsuit according to the report.
“The lack of any reasonable suspicion or probable cause, along with APD’s long history of racially biased policing, show that the seizure and search of and use of excessive force against Plaintiffs were motivated in whole or in part because they are Black.”
Lane informed NBC News that the civil rights lawsuit is the first under Colorado’s new statute, eliminating qualified immunity for police officers. According to the report, The city has not been served with Gilliam’s lawsuit and declined to comment.
Ryan Luby, Aurora’s deputy director of communications, released a statement on behalf of the police department.
“City leadership and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson have previously expressed that this incident is not reflective of their expectations for the Aurora Police Department,” Luby said according to NBC. “Chief Wilson has apologized to Ms. Gilliam directly and offered to cover the cost of providing age-appropriate therapy to the children involved.”
Lane alleges in the lawsuit that the Aurora Police Department has a history of racist behavior and police brutality, notably the death of Elijah McClain. theGrio reported the parents of 23-year-old McClain filed a lawsuit against the police after their son died after being stopped and placed in a chokehold by law enforcement officials.
“We have filed this civil rights lawsuit to demand justice for Elijah McClain, to hold accountable the Aurora officials, police officers, and paramedics responsible for his murder, and to force the City of Aurora to change its longstanding pattern of brutal and racist policing,” the family said in a statement.
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