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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Colorado Police Reach $1.9 Million Settlement with Family of Black Girls They Handcuffed and Held at Gunpoint

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From the heart of DENVER — A group⁣ of young Black girls found ⁤themselves lying face‌ down on a parking lot, their cries of “no” and “mommy” echoing in the⁤ air. A police officer, who had previously pointed her gun at them, was‍ now handcuffing‌ two⁢ of them. The youngest among them, wearing a pink tiara, clung ​to her teenage cousin’s hand in⁤ fear.

Brittney Gilliam, the mother of six-year-old ‌Lovely, watched helplessly as​ she was⁤ handcuffed and escorted ⁤to a patrol car. The police ​had mistakenly identified her car as stolen,​ leading to this unfortunate incident.

Fast forward three years,⁣ Gilliam has accepted a $1.9⁣ million settlement from the city officials of ‍Aurora, a suburb in Denver. This settlement was in response to a lawsuit that accused the police ‍officers of ⁤”profound and systematic” racism. The family’s lawyer, David Lane, made this announcement‍ on Monday.

Lane stated that the settlement spared the girls the distress of reliving the traumatic incident during a ‌trial. The settlement amount will be equally divided among the group, with the girls’ shares being invested in annuities. This will‍ allow‌ the money to grow by the ⁤time they turn 18 and can access‌ it.

“All‌ parties are very ‌satisfied with this settlement,” Lane commented.

However, a spokesperson ‍for the city of Aurora did ‍not immediately comment on the settlement.

The incident, which ​occurred on a summer day in 2020, was supposed to be a fun girls’ day out. Instead, it turned into⁣ a traumatic experience for Gilliam, her daughter, her sister, and two nieces.

Prosecutors found no evidence of the officers committing any crimes, as they ⁣were following ⁣their training for conducting a high-risk stop of a suspected stolen vehicle. However, they acknowledged that the incident was “unacceptable and preventable” and urged the ⁢police to⁢ review ‍their policies to prevent⁤ such incidents in the future.

Darian Dasko, one of the officers‌ involved in the incident, ​was suspended for 160 hours. He and the other officer, Madisen Moen, continue to work for ​the department.

The video footage ⁤of​ the young girls lying face‌ down and being handcuffed sparked ⁤outrage, especially in the wake of protests ⁤over racial injustice triggered by the killing of ⁢George Floyd.

This settlement is not the first ⁤time Aurora has​ had to pay for ⁣police misconduct. ‌In 2021, the city settled ⁤for $15 ‌million with the parents of‌ Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was killed in 2019 after being stopped, placed in a‌ neck hold, and injected with a sedative. One police officer was convicted in his death, ‌while two others were acquitted.⁣ Two paramedics‍ were also convicted.

‘You have to use common sense’

A state civil rights investigation,⁤ launched in response to the ⁣outrage⁢ over McClain’s death, found a ⁣deeply ingrained culture of racially biased policing in the department.

Lane expressed ⁣hope that the ⁣settlement ⁣would send a​ message to law enforcement agencies ⁤across the country about the need for discretion in their responses.

“You can’t be robocop and be​ an effective cop. You have to use common sense,” he stated.

The day that turned into⁢ a nightmare for Gilliam’s girls​ had started with⁤ a trip to a nail ⁢salon. However, they found it ‌closed. As Gilliam ‌was searching for another salon on her phone, officers approached their car with guns drawn and ordered her and a passenger ⁣to roll down their windows and put their hands out.

The officers were ⁤unable to see who else was inside the car due to the tinted windows. ‍Eventually, everyone was ordered out​ and made to lie on the ground.

Gilliam protested, “You don’t have to do all that. You don’t have to do all that,” as captured by the body camera⁢ footage.

“OK. OK, we’ll deal with that,” Dasko responded.

“Don’t tell me it’s OK!” Gilliam retorted.

About a dozen bystanders gathered to watch the incident, with some recording it on their phones.

‘It’s for our safety’

The⁢ video footage showed the police appearing​ confused about how to handle the situation when ‌they realized​ children were inside the SUV. Moen, who had just graduated from the police academy two days prior, was unsure about what to do after⁢ the​ girls were made‍ to lie on the ‍ground. She asked other officers‌ who arrived later if‌ she should handcuff all of them. Another officer advised her to handcuff some of them.

Soon after, another officer seen in the footage decided it was time​ to de-escalate the situation. He ​reassured one of the handcuffed girls, “You’re going ‌to be with ‌your momma. You’re going to be okay. All right? All right? We’ll get you out in a second, sweetheart. It’s for our safety.” The⁣ body⁤ camera footage then shows Gilliam being led to a patrol car, her hands cuffed ‍behind her back.

The police soon realized their mistake amidst the shouting and crying. While the department’s system had notified them​ that Gilliam’s⁢ Dodge with Colorado license plates was stolen, the actual stolen vehicle was a motorcycle with the same license plate​ number in Montana.

Officers kept⁤ their guns drawn for about three-and-a-half minutes, and they ⁣removed the girls’⁤ handcuffs after about eight-and-a-half minutes, once they realized the car wasn’t stolen, according to ​prosecutors.

For the first ⁢year after the incident, ⁤Gilliam was filled with rage, angry that she couldn’t ⁤do anything to help the girls.

“Mentally, it destroyed me because I felt⁢ like not only‌ am ⁣I not safe, these kids aren’t safe,”⁢ she said in⁣ an interview before ⁢the settlement​ was announced, recalling how⁢ it felt to be held​ on the ground in handcuffs.

Her daughter, who was ​previously a “joyous” child, began acting out and became withdrawn. Lovely wouldn’t ⁢talk about what had happened. ‍Gilliam eventually realized her daughter‍ was afraid of upsetting ‍her further.

However, exactly a year later, almost to the minute, Gilliam gave birth to another ⁤daughter. She felt that God was trying to wake​ her up and that she needed to ‌let go ‍of her anger.

“I felt like I wanted justice, ‍but at the same point, I couldn’t be angry,” she said.⁢ “All I wanted to do was heal.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Disagree. Glad to see accountability but the settlement alone can’t undo the trauma experienced by those girls. Meaningful reform and sensitivity training are necessary to prevent such incidents in the future.

  2. Good to see some accountability, but the trauma these girls endured can’t be erased by money alone. True reform and sensitivity training must be implemented to prevent future incidents.

  3. Disagree. Settlement is a step towards accountability, but real change requires reform and training to ensure this never happens again.

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