Aurora pays $325,000 to a group of mo­torists who were de­tained by po­lice more than 4½ years ago — some at gun­point — as of­fi­cers scram­bled to lo­cate a bank rob­ber.

City will pay $325,000 to peo­ple de­tained in 2012 dur­ing a search for a bank rob­ber.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Aguilar

Aurora this week paid a $325,000 set­tle­ment to a group of mo­torists who were de­tained by po­lice at an in­ter­sec­tion more than 4½ years ago — some at gun­point — as of­fi­cers scram­bled to lo­cate a man who had just robbed a bank.

The set­tle­ment, an­nounced Fri­day, was the re­sult of a fed­eral law­suit 14 plain­tiffs filed in 2014 claim­ing the city vi­o­lated their Fourth Amend­ment right against un­law­ful search and seizure.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred June 2, 2012, at the in­ter­sec­tion of East Iliff Av­enue and South Buck­ley Road after Chris­tian Paetsch robbed a Wells Fargo bank branch and po­lice used GPS tech­nol­ogy to home in on a track­ing de­vice that was hid­den in the stolen money. The track­ing tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, wasn’t pre­cise enough to al­low of­fi­cers to de­ter­mine which ve­hi­cle con­tained the rob­ber.

Po­lice de­cided to sur­round 19 ve­hi­cles — con­tain­ing 28 oc­cu­pants — stopped at a red light at the in­ter­sec­tion in an ef­fort to find the sus­pect, de­mand­ing that “all ve­hi­cle oc­cu­pants hold their arms up and out­side of their ve­hi­cle win­dows,” ac­cord­ing to the suit.

“They bran­dished bal­lis­tic shields and pointed as­sault ri­fles di­rectly at in­no­cent cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing chil­dren un­der 10 years old. Of­fi­cers with po­lice dogs were at the ready,” the suit reads. “No one was free to leave.”

Some mo­torists were pat­ted down, hand­cuffed and made to sit on the side of the road while po­lice searched their cars.

“This all oc­curred de­spite the fact that the of­fi­cers had re­moved and hand­cuffed a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual — Chris­tian Paetsch — from his ve­hi­cle just 30 min­utes after the ini­tial stop,” the law­suit reads.

Aurora city at­tor­ney Mike Hy­man in a state­ment Fri­day said the par­ties were able to come to a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial agree­ment and avoid “a lengthy lit­i­ga­tion process.”

“We be­lieve this set­tle­ment is in the best in­ter­est of the in­volved par­ties and the com­mu­nity as a whole,” he said.

At­tor­ney David Lane, who rep­re­sented the mo­torists in­volved in the stop, said the city hope­fully learned a les­son from the in­ci­dent — “that fight­ing crime does not give the po­lice the right to ig­nore the con­sti­tu­tional rights of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

He told The Den­ver Post in 2014 that the city should have used more ac­cu­rate track­ing tech­nol­ogy, such as a hand-held bea­con that can home in on a trans­mit­ter to within a few feet, rather than car­ry­ing out a mass de­ten­tion on the street.

Lane would not say how the $325,000 was di­vided up among the plain­tiffs or what he and his law firm were paid as a re­sult of the set­tle­ment.

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