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Aurora Police Defend 'Stand Down' Orders; Twice Walked Away From Arresting Man Who Terrorized Apartment Residents

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - A CBS4 investigation has found Aurora police officers twice walked away from arresting a 47-year-old man who was terrorizing residents of an apartment complex, even after the man allegedly exposed himself to kids, threw a rock through one resident's sliding glass door, was delusional, was tasered by police and forced the rescue of two other residents from a second floor room in an apartment he had ransacked.

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"I totally understand that there's people that were, that felt like they were abandoned," said Aurora Police Deputy Chief Darin Parker.

The suspect in the case -- Robert Thompson, 47 -- has a 10 page criminal record including violent assaults, drug charges, burglary, criminal mischief and resisting arrest. But Thompson's friend, Leander Mccoy, agreed to allow Thompson to stay at his apartment in late August.

The trouble began Sept. 2 when police were called to the apartments at 16130 East 17th Place after Thompson allegedly exposed himself to children in the area and threw a rock through a neighbor's sliding glass door.

Police arrived and said when they made contact with Thompson, he "appeared to be delusional but was not hurting himself or others at the time," according to a police summary obtained by CBS4. Aurora police declined to release their official reports citing an ongoing investigation. The summary, however, says after police had lengthy conversations with Thompson, "It was determined that we would walk away and obtain a warrant for the charges."

"He exposed himself to some girls," Mccoy told CBS4. "They (the police) left. I thought it was the craziest thing I've seen in my life. I expected him to go to jail."

Mccoy's girlfriend, Lisa Raffa, was equally surprised. "How do you do something like that and not go to jail?" she asked. "I don't get it."

The next day, Sept. 3, Aurora police were again called to the apartment complex. According to the internal police summary, "The male was now outside with a golf club and spray can spraying a car."

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He had ransacked Mccoy's apartment smashing numerous items. Police said Thompson was "completely uncooperative" and retreated back into the apartment. They attempted to taser Thompson inside the apartment but Thompson, who again appeared delusional to police, shut himself in a bedroom. The Aurora fire department was summoned and using one of their ladders, police evacuated Raffa and a man from a second floor bedroom.

Police wrote, "We were unable to gain cooperation (from Thompson) so we walked away. We will work with detectives to expedite a warrant for this person."

Raffa told CBS4 she was "petrified" with fear of Thompson and had to spend the night with a relative.

"He destroyed everything I had that was breakable. They tased him then they left when they should have arrested him. There's a man in our house trying to do whatever damage he can do with a golf club and he's not stable and you just leave? I'm speechless, I'm speechless. I don't know what to say," said Raffa.

Mccoy was equally stunned that police walked away a second time.

"I was standing right there and I'm like, 'What are you guys doing?' and they said they were told to stand down and they left. Bottom line is they left us to deal with it by ourselves and that's kind of crazy."

Deputy Chief Parker said, "We're trying to get the situation resolved with the least amount of escalation, the least amount of confrontation as we can."

He said police presence on the scene seemed to agitate Thompson. Parker also explained his belief that had police taken more aggressive action and tried to take Thompson into custody, it could have led to the use of deadly force. He said escalation could have led to Thompson being hurt or killed and officers potentially being injured.

Jim Ponzi, a Denver police lieutenant and professor of criminal justice said he doesn't like to second guess police tactics, but in this case, "I would not have left the guy two successive days, probably not even after the first call."

Ponzi said leaving Thompson at the apartment complex could have led to the suspect "seriously hurting himself or other people. It was a serious call to begin with since it involved a child."

Late in the day on Sept. 4, Aurora police returned to the area for a third time, this time taking Thompson into custody without incident.

"I believe the officers' decisions and command officers' decisions were correct in this case and were supported by the outcome," said Parker. "I will tell you I believe we got this one right. Risk assessment is an imperfect science but in this case we got it right."

Ponzi said, "A win is often defined by you did something you shouldn't have done but it turned out alright."

Mccoy said he is still puzzled by the Aurora police tactics.

"This is a nice safe neighborhood and they deserve better from the protect and defend guys."

Deputy Chief Parker said Aurora police would have acted the same way if the same incident had occurred in a more upscale area of Aurora. Asked if he thought the outcome of the Elijah McClain case impacted police strategy, Parker said, "I don't think it would be inaccurate to say officers are thinking about how they're handling situations now ... what could happen in a situation, and I got to tell you I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Learning from situations that happened in the past whether it's our agency or others is not a bad thing."

Thompson is being held in the Adams County jail on charges of felony burglary, five counts of misdemeanor indecent exposure, criminal mischief, obstructing police and reckless endangerment -- all related to his alleged actions Sept. 2 and 3. Bond has been set at $10,000.

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