Officers from the Aurora, Colorado police department detained a family after mistakenly identifying their vehicle as stolen.
The incident happened on Sunday morning when, 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 one adult driver and four children, ages 6-17. All were ordered to exit the vehicle, and told to lay face down on the ground. As seen in the now viral video, the officers also handcuffed the driver and at least two of the children.
Brittney Gilliam, the driver of the vehicle, told 9NEWS she had taken her nieces, younger sister, and daughter to get their nails done but when they realized the salon was closed, they got back in their car. That’s when she said police surrounded their car with guns drawn.
According to APD, a motorcycle with the same license plate number was reported stolen that morning. However, the license plate of the motorcycle was from a different state than that of the vehicle they pulled over.
“He’s like something about the car being reported stolen,” Gilliam said. “And I’m like ‘this happened months ago, you guys cleared it we got to pick up the car the next day the very next day so I’m not understanding what’s going on.'”
Gilliam said her car was stolen back in February but was found the next day.
APD said confusion may have come from the fact that the vehicle mistakenly stopped was reported stolen earlier this year.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” Gilliam said about APD. “You could have even told them ‘step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.’ There was different ways to handle it.”
Officers unhandcuffed everyone, apologized and explained the situation. The family asked to make a complaint, so a lieutenant responded to the scene to handle the request, APD said.
An internal investigation has been opened, according to APD.
“The Aurora Police Department understands that this is concerning and traumatic for those involved and we again offer our apologies,” APD said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the department said officers are trained when contacting a stolen car to do what is called “a high-risk stop,” which is also used when officers know or suspect the occupants are armed.
“In a high-risk stop, weapons are drawn, and occupants are told to exit the car and lie prone on the ground,” Agent Faith Goodrich with APD told 9NEWS. “There is not a written policy regarding when/how we use this stop. Officers can use discretion based on the information they have at the time.”
In her own statement on Monday night, Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson said officers need to have the ability to deviate from this type of stop when the situation permits.
“We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is a called a high-risk stop,” she said. “But we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves. I have already directed my team to look at new practices and training.”
She added that she personally called the family to apologize, and the city will cover the costs of any age-appropriate therapy the children may need.
Gilliam is now represented by David Lane, a prominent Denver lawyer and law partner of Mari Newman who represents Elijah McClain’s family.