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Colorado city will pay $1.9 million settlement after officers drew weapons on a Black family in mix-up over stolen vehicle

By Joe Sutton, CNN

(CNN) — The Colorado city of Aurora said Monday it has reached a $1.9 million settlement with a Black family who had guns drawn on them in a stolen vehicle mix-up in 2020.

“The Aurora Police Department remains committed to strengthening the relationship with the community through accountability and continuously improving how it serves the public,” city spokesman Michael Brannen told CNN Monday. “The city can confirm that an agreement has been reached.”

In August 2020, Brittney Gilliam was taking her 6-year-old daughter, 17-year-old sister and 14- and 12-year-old nieces to get their nails done when Aurora police officers stopped them in a parking lot and ordered them at gunpoint to get out of their vehicle.

The settled lawsuit says officers ordered them on the ground and Gilliam, her sister and the 12-year-old were handcuffed while police verified the car she was driving was not stolen. At the time, Aurora police were told to handle stolen vehicles as a high-risk stops, authorities said then.

Gilliam’s attorney, David Lane, said Monday in a statement that they hope law enforcement officers learn how to use common sense, especially when dealing with children. He also said his clients being Black played a role in the officers’ actions.

“A robo-cop mentality will lead to huge liability. We believe that inexcusable racial profiling was involved in this case as well,” Lane said. “When the race of the occupants of a vehicle causes guns to be drawn, a line has been crossed which will result in huge consequences for the police.”

He said he hope the settlement leads to policy changes.

At the time of the incident, police said there was confusion over the license plate as there was a stolen motorcycle with the same plate information, but it was from a different state.

After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone, explained what happened and apologized, authorities said in August 2020.

Officers in incident weren’t charged

That month, the district attorney’s office under George Brauchler reviewed the incident and in early 2021 declined to file charges against the officers.

“Despite the disturbing fact that terrified children were ordered out of a vehicle at gunpoint and placed face-down on the ground, our conclusion is that there is not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the APD officers involved unlawfully, intentionally, knowingly, or negligently violated any Colorado criminal law,” the DA’s office said in a letter to the then-Aurora police chief, concerning the review. “It is our hope, however, that APD will immediately undertake a review of their policies to try and ensure that nothing of this sort ever happens again.”

Brauchler was term-limited and in November 2020 John Kellner was elected to the office.

CNN has reached out to Aurora police to learn whether the officers involved in the traffic stop were disciplined.

CNN’s Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.

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