Out-of-control Denver cops cuff innocent citizens at gunpoint
On June 2, 2012, Aurora police shut down the intersection at E. Iliff Ave. and S. Buckley Rd. while searching for an armed robber who had just held up a Wells Fargo Bank.
They tracked a GPS device in the stolen money to the intersection, but they didn’t have details on the car or the suspect. So officers blocked the intersection and pulled dozens of people out of their cars at gunpoint.
Tim Olson, a Denver mechanic was one of those drivers caught in the police dragnet. He said, “Suddenly there was a police officer straight ahead, takes a shotgun or rifle and aims my direction. You know never having been in that situation before it was extremely confusing, extremely intimidating.”
Olson says once he was out of the car, officers twisted his arm so badly, it injured his shoulder. Olson said, “I was telling the officer ‘you’re hurting me. Let go.’ They said ‘quit resisting.’”
Now he says his injury is affecting his everyday life and his work. Olson said, “My shoulder gets to the point where I can’t drive. It aches, starts to throb. I have to put my arm down. I can’t work with my arm over my head for long periods of time anymore because it starts to ache.”
Attorney David Lane represents several of the people who were detained. He says some for hours.
Lane said, “Briefly detaining them was not unconstitutional while they investigated. But the way they went about it, roughing people up, cuffing people after they’ve been frisked, detaining people for a long period of time, even after the bank robber had been identified… those are the kinds of things we are looking at as far as constitutional violations under the fourth amendment.”
D-U law professor and constitutional law expert Justin Marceau is watching this case closely.
He said, “So if we accept this as constitutional, we’re probably accepting more of a police state, we may want to, maybe things have changed, things are more dangerous. But it’s not what conduct the fourth amendment originally had conceived of is as permissible.”
He said with new technology we may see more cases like this. “This sort of thing is going to become more of a problem. At the founding of our constitution, we didn’t have GPS. Now we are locating fleeing bank suspects to an intersection. We don’t know the color, we don’t know which car. It’s a busy intersection, we know they’re there. Should we be able to stop all 30 people? This is a question our founding fathers couldn’t conceive of. Eventually, the sort of question the Supreme Court will have to address.”
At the time, Aurora police chief Dan Oates came out defending his officers saying he did not believe anyone’s constitutional rights were violated. “The law is clear that investigative detentions are lawful for a reasonable period of time, determined by facts and circumstances. [The] suspect was in one of 19 cars. No question we inconvenienced citizens. We feel badly about that and we apologize again to them today. But we made a tough choice here and we arrested a very dangerous bank robber.”
Man, Aurora again? Civil society is looking a bit too militarized out there for me.....
The lesson is clear: Don't drive!
NOTE I like "investigative detention" very much. It reminds me of the Nazi's "protective custody."