Justice At Their Own Expense for Victims of Aurora, CO “Heroes”

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Once again, it’s the victims who pay for their own victimization (via taxes) rather than “heroes” themselves: 

A total of 14 drivers in Aurora, Colorado have received a settlement of $325,000 for a 2012 incident, in which local police decided to detain everyone within an intersection at gunpoint in order to search for a bank robbery suspect. Those motorists had filed a lawsuit in 2014 based on violations of their Fourth Amendment rights during the detention.

After the bank robbery, police had used a tracker within the stolen money to determine that the robber, Christian Paetsch was at the intersection. However, the tracker wasn’t precise enough to pinpoint which car he was in. In the process of the detention, over two dozen people, including children, were forced out of their cars at gunpoint, some of them were verbally berated and even physically abused. Several of them are reported to have suffered medical episodes as a result, including a woman who suffered a panic attack and a seven year old child who had an asthma attack. Neither were given any assistance by the police officers detaining them.

Even after Paetsch had been identified as the robber and arrested, those 28 people were held in handcuffs, threatened with arrest, and subjected to illegal searches of their bodies and vehicles. Prior to being released, they were all forced under duress to sign forms stating that they had consented to the search. (Read the PDF containing the full court documents here: Aurora Colorado Mass Detention Lawsuit Complaint and Jury Demand)

Via the Denver Post:

The incident occurred on June 2, 2012, at the intersection of Iliff Avenue and 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 ten 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.

The Aurora police decided that once they already had everyone at their mercy and even though they had already found the suspect, they subjected people they knew were innocent of any crime to searches of their vehicles and persons.

These thugs will not be held accountable, either.

Instead, the taxpayers will be forced to cover the cost of their “heroic” actions.

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  1. And then there’s stuff like this:

    How Houston police officers are (not) held accountable for bad shoots
    The Houston Chronicle’s Lise Olsen and her colleague James Pinkerton have been pulling back the curtain on Houston PD police shootings over the past year. We’ve known for a while that HPD officers are almost never indicted for shooting people no matter what the circumstance, even when the officers’ story blatantly contradicts known facts. Now we know that Houston officers are rarely disciplined in such cases, even when grave errors lead to deaths of unarmed victims. From Olsen’s 12/29 story:

    Only five of 40 cases involving police shootings of unarmed individuals since 2010 have resulted in disciplinary action against officers after police chiefs found that they violated policy, a new Chronicle analysis shows. None of the officers were criminally charged, and none of the disciplinary actions were announced to the public. Because the department’s internal affairs probes are cloaked in confidentiality, the analysis required cross-matching data from the city, HPD and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

    All five officers were disciplined for policy violations that occurred when they shot people while off-duty.

    One failed to train with the weapon he used to shoot an innocent man. Another exhibited a lack of “sound judgment” by shooting a fleeing man in the back while working an unapproved security job out-of-uniform. A third had been repeatedly disciplined for working an unauthorized apartment security job when he confronted and killed a wrecker driver. The fourth was found to have been intoxicated at the time he shot two people, among other policy violations. Still, as in all other intentional shootings, these were determined to have been “justified.”

    Even when disciplinary actions were taken, they seemed aimed more at providing cover for the shooter than punishing misconduct. Check out this example:

    Officer Christopher Slater, who fired his weapon across a busy street and hit an unarmed 29-year-old, Gerard Barnett, in the back of the leg. Federal court records in a related civil rights lawsuit show the officer gave different versions of why he shot Barnett. The officer initially claimed Barnett had pointed a weapon at him. No gun was found, and Barnett’s hands bore no sign of having fired a weapon. Still, the officer insisted someone else must have picked up the gun after Barnett fell.

    After interviewing suspects and reviewing surveillance video, HPD’s own investigators concluded Barnett was an innocent bystander. Video cameras and other witness statements indicate that Barnett had been filling up a car with gas at a Citgo station when shots rang out and he ran to get out of the line of fire, according to documents made public in a related federal court case.

    Slater received a written reprimand in February 2010 – but only because he had “failed to qualify” with the gun he used by not practicing often enough at the department’s firing range, his personnel file shows. In 2013, the city of Houston approved a rare $90,000 settlement for the man he shot.

    Despite that settlement, the Houston Police Department has never updated its account of the April 2009 shooting that claims Barnett pointed a weapon at Slater, who was off-duty and out-of uniform at the time of the incident.

    Barnett, reached by phone, said most of the settlement money went to pay a lawyer who finally agreed to take his case. Barnett has been able to work but has never been able to afford surgery. The officer’s bullet remains embedded in his thigh.

    Olsen highlighted the recent testimony of an expert witness who “analyzed 670 internal affairs reviews of HPD officers who had discharged their weapons between 2006 and 2016.” He testified that, “HPD investigators relied too heavily on statements given by officers who’d been coached what to say by union lawyers,” she reported.

    Another recent Olsen story highlighted that, even though Harris County does not prosecute police officers for bad shoots, other jurisdictions are beginning to do so. That article opened:

    Prosecutors in all but one of Texas’ biggest counties have launched a spate of police officer prosecutions in the shootings of unarmed or mentally ill people over the past three years that parallels a similar rise in police prosecutions nationwide.

    Harris County, which leads the state in police shootings by a wide margin, is the exception. Prosecutors have presented evidence in more than 200 officer-involved shootings to grand juries that happened here since 2012. One of every five individuals shot by police was unarmed. But in every case, the officer was not indicted, records show.

    One HPD officer cited was drunk when he shot an unarmed man but that fact was never presented to the grand jury by the DA’s office.

    Olsen’s story goes on to demonstrate how difficult it is to secure convictions in cases against police officers, which nationally succeed only about a half of the time. “Out of the 78 police officers charged with murder or manslaughter in shooting-related prosecutions tracked since 2005, only 27 officers were convicted; 29 were acquitted or had charges dismissed; 22 cases remain pending as of November,” according to an academic Olsen quoted who tracks them. Considering police kill nearly 1,000 people per year nationally, those are paltry numbers.

    This fact bite in part shows favoritism toward police by prosecutors, but it’s also a function of the plea-mill system into which the modern criminal justice system has devolved. For the most part, prosecutors don’t try cases any longer – they cut deals and dismiss the hard ones. And these are hard ones. Police union attorneys are always willing to roll the dice with a jury, hoping sympathy for the profession will trump the facts. It’s a smart strategy: Often, it does.

    Great coverage of an important issue. For more reporting on shootings of unarmed people, see the Chron’s Unarmed series as well as Grits contributor Eva Ruth Moravec’s Point of Impact series.
    Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at 8:59 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

  2. And $325k is hardly the only cost to taxpayers too. That is the bone those victims get. Taxpayers will end up paying for the lawyers on each side, which I am sure is far far far more the 325k. Most likely in the millions.


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