The nail salon outing with an African-American mom, her sister, daughter and nieces that turned into a viral ordeal in which police held the family at gunpoint, now has Aurora, Colorado’s police chief scrambling for a suitable response.
Meanwhile, the woman, who was handcuffed and held in the back of a squad car, is left trying to explain to the children she was responsible for what happened to them.
“When you’re a parent, you have to answer every time your child calls, cries, gets a boo-boo,” Brittney Gilliam told The Denver Post. “...Not being able to pick up the pieces — with the officers dehumanizing them, putting them through that traumatic experience — it’s heartbreaking.”
A cellphone video that has gone viral since the Sunday (Aug 3) incident shows the girls who ranged in age from 6 to 17 in a parking lot being detained by officers. As they are being held, they are shown screaming in fear and crying. At least two of them are handcuffed and laying face down.
The incident comes as Aurora Police is already under scrutiny over the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, who died last summer after a police chokehold. That case is being reinvestigated.
Gilliam, told local station KUSA-TV that she was driving the group to the salon, but it was closed so they returned to their vehicle. Soon after, Aurora police approached their car with weapons claiming they believed it was stolen. Police say a motorcycle with the same license plate number was actually the vehicle reported stolen.
But Aurora Police Chief Valerie Wilson, in her first day in her role Tuesday (Aug 4) told the Post, “It was done wrong, that’s the bottom line.”
She acknowledged the officers’ mistakes and said a determination should have been made about the vehicle being stolen by looking up the license plate number in the National Crime Information Center. If they had, they would have realized they had the wrong vehicle.
“I would have expected that they should have followed training and verified that prior to the stop,” said Wilson. But she also said that placing children on the ground having them stay there was a second mistake.
“We’re hoping that an officer is going to make the determination and say, “Hmm, something’s wrong here — I’m not going to put this little kid on the ground,’ ” Wilson said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Wilson said she has reached out to Gilliam’s family to apologize directly and offer counseling to them, but she has not heard back from them. An internal affairs investigation will be conducted into the officers’ actions with or without the family’s participation, she said.
But Gilliam balked at hearing anything from the Aurora Police. “If it was a white family,” she told the Post, “it never would have happened.”