In August 2020, Brittney Gilliam was having a “Sunday Funday” outing with her 17-year-old sister, six-year-old daughter, and two nieces, 12 and 14, when they encountered Aurora police officers.
Officers ordered everyone out of Gilliam’s vehicle and handcuffed Gilliam, her sister, and her 12-year-old niece, according to a lawsuit. Officers forced Gilliam’s six-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece to hold their hands above their heads while face down on the pavement because the handcuffs were too big for the youngest girl, the suit states.
According to the suit, the family was detained for two hours until a sergeant arrived. Video of the incident was shared on social media.
The Aurora Police Department said officers conducted the traffic stop because they believed Gilliam had stolen her vehicle. Police said her license plate matched one of a stolen motorcycle. Officers later found out that the motorcycle had plates from a different state.
Gilliam filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora and police in 2021, accusing officers of searching her family at gunpoint without any evidence or probable cause. Gilliam believes they were targeted due to race.
A $1.9 million settlement was reached with the city before the case went to trial.
Attorney David Lane said he hopes the settlement will lead to changes in law enforcement.
“Aurora cops need to spend less time on the gun range and more time in the law library. Our hope is that police officers all over the country learn that law enforcement needs to use common sense, especially when dealing with children,” Lane said in a statement. “A robo-cop mentality will lead to huge liability.”
“We believe that inexcusable racial profiling was involved in this case as well. When the race of the occupants of a vehicle causes guns to be drawn, a line has been crossed which will result in huge consequences for the police,” he added.
City spokesperson Michael Brannen said in a statement: “The Aurora Police Department remains committed to strengthening the relationship with the community through accountability and continuously improving how it serves the public.”