A suburban Denver police department is apologizing after a video showed officers handcuffing Black children face down in a parking lot. The Aurora Police Department said the family was stopped mistakenly.
The clip, which was posted on Facebook, shows a Black family of five being detained by Aurora police on Sunday. During the video, a woman later identified as Brittany Gilliam is seen being handcuffed and four of her family members, ages 6 to 17, were ordered to lie down with their faces on the ground. Two of the kids were also placed in handcuffs.
Throughout the footage, the children can be heard crying for help.
“I want my mother,” said one of kids.
(Warning: Footage below contains profanity and the video may be upsetting to some viewers.)
Before the recording, police officers drew their guns when confronting the group, the family and a witness said. One of the witnesses who filmed the incident told CBS Denver that she had never seen a gun that close.
“I went from seeing kids in a car to seeing a gun pointed at the kids in the car,” Jenni Wurtz-Bennett told the station. “I called my husband and said ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at,’ and he said ‘Hang up and start recording.”
Police said they were conducting a “high-risk stop” because of a suspected stolen vehicle. Gilliam’s car had the same license plate number, but was not registered to the state officers were looking for, police said.
Newly appointed chief of the Aurora police Vanessa Wilson said in a statement obtained by CBS News that the department apologized for the incident and is looking to new practices and training when it comes to a high-risk stops. The practice involves officers drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground.
Gilliam told CBS Denver on Monday that she doesn’t want an apology.
“I want change,” she said. “Better protocol, better procedures because the way you did it yesterday was not it.”
She said her 6-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece were obeying commands from police to lay on the ground. She said police put handcuffs on her 12-year-old sister and 17-year-old niece.
“Those kids are not OK,” she told the station. “They’re never going to be OK. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be OK after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6-year-old.”
Her attorney now plans to file a federal lawsuit against the department for excessive force, CBS Denver reported.
The incident comes as the police department faces scrutiny from the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in August last year after he was detained and placed in a chokehold by officers and later injected with ketamine. McClain’s case received renewed attention in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in May.