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Police settle $1.9M lawsuit after drawing guns, handcuffing Black family in car theft mix-up

Aurora has agreed to pay a family $1.9 million settlement following a 2020 incident where police officers drew their guns on a woman and four minors.

The Denver suburb of Aurora has agreed to pay a $1.9 million settlement to a family following a 2020 incident where police officers drew their guns on a woman and four minors after mistaking their car for another vehicle that had been stolen. A video of the group lying on the ground went viral online shortly after the incident.

The family, who are all Black, could be seen lying on the pavement in a parking lot while the driver, Brittney Gilliam, is seen handcuffed and being walked by officers away from the minors.

Gillam’s 12-year-old sister and 17-year-old niece were handcuffed and lying down on the pavement. Her 6-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece were also seen lying on their stomachs in the parking lot. The children can be heard crying and screaming as onlookers question officers and try to intervene.


Amid shouting and crying, the police soon realized their mistake. 

Officers later determined the vehicle they were seeking had the same license plate number as Gillam’s but was from out-of-state – the missing vehicle had a Montana plate, instead of one from Colorado. Police also said the mix-up could have been linked to the fact that Gillam’s vehicle was stolen earlier in the year before it was later recovered.

The lawsuit had claimed the police officers’ actions were evidence of "profound and systematic" racism, a lawyer for the family, David Lane, announced Monday.

Lane said the settlement saved the girls the trauma of having to relive what happened during a trial and that the money 

"All parties are very satisfied with this settlement," said Lane. Who added that the money will be evenly divided among Gilliam and the four girls, with the girls’ portions being placed into annuities so the money will grow by the time they access it when they turn 18.

In a written statement, the city confirmed a deal had been reached.


"The Aurora Police Department remains committed to strengthening the relationship with the community through accountability and continuously improving how it serves the public," it said.

For the first year, Gilliam said the encounter with the police had left her full of rage and anger, as she could not do anything to help the girls. 

"Mentally, it destroyed me because I felt like not only am I not safe, these kids aren’t safe," she said in an interview before the settlement was announced.

Gilliam said she was taking the girls to get their nails done when she pulled over to find an open salon. When police surrounded her vehicle, she said she offered to show her registration, proving that she owned the car but was placed in handcuffs first. The incident came more than two months after the death of George Floyd, which led to nationwide protests and riots.

This settlement also marks the latest payout Aurora has been forced to make following police misconduct. 

The city settled for $15 million in 2021 with the parents of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was killed in 2019 after he was stopped as he walked down the street. Police placed him in a neck hold and injected him with a sedative. One police officer was also convicted in his death and two others were acquitted. Two paramedics were also convicted.

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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