AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - Brittney Gilliam says she was looking at her phone for another nail salon when an Aurora police officer approached her car. The incident from Sunday morning has now gone viral online and once again caused controversy for the police department.
"He proceeded to handcuff me and I saw him handcuff the kids, so I started getting angry why are you handcuffing kids for," Gilliam said.
"I actually didn't know what I was watching when I first started seeing what was happening. I'd never seen a gun that close," said Jenni Wurtz who witnessed the incident and recorded it. "I went from seeing kids in a car to seeing a gun pointed at the kids in the car. I called my husband and said 'I don't know what I'm looking at,' and he said 'Hang up and start recording.'"
Aurora police say they conducted a high-risk stop because of a suspected stolen vehicle. Gilliam's car had the same license plate number, but wrong state, for the vehicle officers were looking for. Gilliam says her 12-year-old sister and 17-year-old niece were handcuffed while lying on the asphalt of the parking lot.
A 14-year-old niece and her 6-year-old daughter were also obeying police commands to lay on the ground.
"They were screaming for their mom and again, this was all a big misunderstanding, so in their mind they're getting their nails done. It was all happening so fast and something about it was like, this is not right. These kids have no idea what is happening," Wurtz said.
"I'm livid. I'm angry," said Gilliam. "Those kids are not OK. They're never going to be OK. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be OK after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6 year old."
Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson released a statement to CBS4:
"We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is called a high-risk stop. This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground. 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. I have called the family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday's events. I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover."
Gilliam's attorney says he will file a federal lawsuit for excessive force.
"I don't want your apology. I want change," she said. "Better protocol, better procedures because the way you did it yesterday was not it."
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