Last summer officers from the Aurora, Colorado police department held Brittney Gilliam and four underage members of her family at gun point after mistakenly identifying their vehicle as stolen.
On Monday, Gilliam sued the city of Aurora, Chief Vanessa Wilson and five police officers, alleging the officers had no legal grounds for their actions.
The incident happened on a Sunday morning in August. According to APD, officers were notified of a possible stolen vehicle in the area.
APD said the officers identified a vehicle that matched the license plate number and description they were given and conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle.
The occupants of the vehicle included Gilliam, who was driving, her 17-year-old sister, her 6-year-old daughter and two nieces, ages 12 and 14.
The family had drove to a nail salon, only to realize that it was closed, and were sitting in the parked car looking on Gilliam’s phone for another salon.
Police approached their vehicle with guns drawn and told the family to get out of the car and lay face down on the ground. Gilliam and at least two of the children were handcuffed.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers targeted the family because they were Black.
“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,” says the lawsuit, which also names five Aurora police officers and Police Chief Vanessa Wilson as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, the girls have suffered serious emotional trauma and stress since the incident. The four minors have attended weekly therapy since the encounter with the police in August.
The Aurora Police Department said the officers conducted the traffic stop because they believed that Gilliam had a stolen car. Saying they thought the vehicle she was in shared the license plate number of a stolen motorcycle. They later realized that the plates belonged to a motorcycle from a different state.
The District Attorney’s Officer said this month that after reviewing the incident, the officers involved would not face any charges. The prosecutor’s office said there was no evidence that the officers acted unlawfully despite the “disturbing fact” that children were held at gunpoint.