Black Mom, 4 Kids Detained After Salon Day Get $1.9M Settlement

Children were handcuffed, made to lie on ground during stolen-vehicle mix-up
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2020 7:29 AM CDT
Updated Feb 6, 2024 1:30 AM CST
UPDATE Feb 6, 2024 1:30 AM CST

The Black mom and four children ordered out of their car by police at gunpoint and forced to lie on the ground (while handcuffed, in the case of two of the kids) have settled with the Colorado city involved in the 2020 incident. Aurora will pay Brittney Gilliam, her daughter, her sister, and her two nieces a total of $1.9 million, which will be split evenly between the five of them, the AP reports. The family sued after the incident, which started when they were pulled over by police who mistakenly believed they were in a stolen vehicle, and which their lawyer said was evidence of "profound and systematic" racism. Prosecutors found the officers involved committed no crimes (and both remain employed by the department), but did acknowledge the incident was "unacceptable and preventable" and said department policies should be reviewed.

Aug 4, 2020 7:29 AM CDT

The same Colorado police department involved in the death of Elijah McClain now has a new controversy on its hands—this time involving a Black family pulled over for an allegedly stolen vehicle. Per the Denver Post, Brittney Gilliam had taken her nieces, sister, and daughter out to get their nails done, but they were pulled over by Aurora cops in their SUV, which happened to have the same license plate number (from Colorado) as a stolen motorcycle with Montana plates. The family was ordered out of the car at gunpoint, and while Gilliam was questioned by police, the four girls, ages 6, 12, 14, and 17, were made to lie prone on the ground, the 12-year-old and 17-year-old handcuffed. In a video shot by a bystander, which has since gone viral on Twitter, the children can be heard crying and screaming as they remain on the ground, with police officers standing around them.

One officer finally helps the two handcuffed kids sit up; the other two kids are also allowed to sit. Vanessa Wilson, Aurora's interim police chief, says in a statement cited by the Washington Post that the officers were just doing what they were trained to do during a "high-risk stop," but that "we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves." She adds she's told her team "to look at new practices and training" and called the family to apologize. The police note that adding to the confusion was the fact that Gilliam's car had been stolen earlier in the year. "[It] makes me very mad, because I am not anti-police," Jenni Wurtz, who shot the video, tells Denver7. "I'm anti what happened." Meanwhile, Teriana Thomas, Gilliam's 14-year-old niece who was seen in the video, says she's lost trust in the police. "It's like they don't care," she tells KUSA. "Who am I going to call when my life is in danger?" (More Aurora, Colorado stories.)

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