The cell phone footage of the incident is harrowing. A clip, now circulating on social media, shows a young, Black family comprised of a woman and four minors, on the ground, several handcuffed, with police surrounding them. Cries from the young children dominate the audio.
On Monday, the police department responsible for the distressing scene that took place on Sunday in Aurora, Colorado, apologized, claiming that the traumatizing event was due to a “mix-up.” According to the Associated Press, the woman and children were detained because police were seeking a vehicle that had the same license plate number as the one they were driving. However, the vehicle and state were not the same.
The video, captured by Jennifer Wurtz, a bystander who attempted to help, shows children reported by the AP to be between the ages of 6 to 17 years old, in an Aurora parking lot laying with their stomachs to the ground and their hands handcuffed behind their back. A woman, later identified as the driver Brittney Gilliam, was led away from the young ladies, 6-year-old daughter included, in handcuffs.
Activities planned for the family’s Sunday afternoon included a pamper session at a local nail salon. However, the girls’ day out was thwarted by Aurora police who pulled behind the vehicle with guns drawn as they were attempting to determine if the salon was open. In an interview with CNN, Gilliam said the police never told her why they surrounded her car and demanded that all passengers exit, until after she was handcuffed.
“I have called (Gilliam’s) family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday’s events,” newly appointed Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said Monday in a statement posted to Twitter. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”
Wilson also added that the mix-up may have been due in part to a February incident where Gilliam did report her car stolen. However, Gilliam’s attorney told CNN that the car was returned the following day by the Aurora police department.
The incident is now under investigation and an examination of department procedure is currently taking place.