A black family traveling in an SUV with children aged six to 17, were detained and handcuffed at gunpoint after police mistakenly thought their vehicle was stolen.
Bystander footage has emerged on social media showing the moment Aurora Police officers in Colorado arrested a driver and a group of young girls in the parking lot of a thrift store on Sunday morning.
The shocking video clip shows the family lying on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs in broad daylight as officers escort them into police vehicles.
The four children, who are six, 12, 14, and 17 years old, can be heard screaming and crying throughout the arrest.
The incident was a case of mistaken identity after cops believed the car had been stolen because it matched the license plate number and description they were given.
They later determined they had stopped the wrong car and were actually looking for a motorcycle with the same license plate number from Montana.
The incident comes amid nationwide protests and mounting criticism of the Aurora Police Department which has been blamed for the death of 23-year-old black man Elijah McClain last August.
The driver of the blue SUV has been identified as Brittney Gilliam, who had been traveling with her nieces, younger sister and daughter.
She told local station 9News that she had taken her family to get their nails done but later realized the salon was closed.
The family then returned to their car only to be surrounded by officers who had their guns drawn.
‘There’s no excuse why you [cops] didn’t handle it a different type of way,’ Gilliam told the news station.
‘You could have even told them “step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.” There was different ways to handle it.’
Police said cops may have accidentally targeted the car because it had been reported stolen in February in a separate incident.
Gilliam said the vehicle was stolen in February but was found the following day.
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson later released a statement on Twitter, apologizing for the mix-up.
‘We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is called a high-risk stop,’ she wrote.
‘This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground.’
‘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.’
Chief Wilson said an internal investigation has also been opened.
The family, who has filed a complaint, is now being represented by Denver attorney David Lane, the law partner of Elijah McClain’s family lawyer Mari Newman, according to 9News.
McClain was placed in a lethal chokehold by Aurora police officers on August 24, 2019, after he had been stopped while walking home at night.
Police were called to the scene after receiving reports of a man wearing a ski mask ‘acting sketchy’ and flailing his arms.
McClain, a massage therapist described by friends and family as an ‘oddball, vegetarian, athlete, and peacemaker’ who loved animals, was handcuffed and placed in a carotid control hold, restricting his bloodflow, before losing consciousness.
Paramedics later sedated him with ketamine, sending him into cardiac arrest. He was declared brain dead and removed from life support six days later.