The girls ranged in age from 6 to 17 and were not driving the car
Over the weekend, the Gilliam family, including cousins, sisters, aunts, and nieces, decided to go get their nails done together. They pulled into a parking lot and, upon seeing the salon was closed, were getting back into their SUV. The SUV, which had been reported stolen months ago then found the next day, had been cleared by police in February. But, a separate report of a stolen motorcycle that matched the license plate number led them to stop the Gilliams. Police surrounded the SUV, ordering the girls, who ranged in age from six to 17, to lie facedown on the pavement while they spoke to the adult, handcuffing two of them.
“He’s like something about the car being reported stolen,” driver Brittney Gilliam told KUSA. “And I’m like ‘this happened months ago, you guys cleared it we got to pick up the car the next day the very next day so I’m not understanding what’s going on.’”
While this was happening the girls can be heard on video taken from a bystander sobbing and screaming, “I want my mother,” and “Can’t I have my sister next to me?”
Almost a year ago, Aurora police from this same department tackled 23-year-old Elijah McClain as he was walking home and placed him into a chokehold. Paramedics arrived shortly after and injected him with a heavy sedative. He died days later. As McClain’s story gained publicity following the murder of George Floyd, a reinvestigation of his death has been ordered, and two of the officers involved were fired after photos surfaced of them reenacting his arrest.
Aurora’s acting police chief apologized on Monday night and said they would be launching an internal investigation of this latest incident. Police involved said it was just a misunderstanding. “The Aurora Police Department understands that this is concerning and traumatic for those involved and we again offer our apologies,” APD said in a statement.
Statement regarding yesterday’s car stop at Iliff and Buckley. pic.twitter.com/rNIJhRjUOu
— Chief Vanessa Wilson (@APDChiefWilson) August 4, 2020
As the video of the police officers’ treatment of the girls went viral on social media, Aurora’s city council voted to make Wilson the city’s permanent police chief.
“I’m livid. I’m angry,” said Gilliam to CBS News4. “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.”
“That’s police brutality. There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” Gilliam said. “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.’ ”