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.
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.