Community members want to know why a driver who plowed
through a crowd hasn't been arrested
By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post
DENVER — After weeks of criticism for responding too
aggressively to a protest of police brutality, Aurora police on Monday faced a
new wave of criticism for not doing enough to prevent violence and property
damage during another protest on Saturday.
Some members of City Council and the mayor during a meeting
Monday evening questioned the department’s hands-off approach that allowed some
in the crowd to damage windows of city buildings and set fire to the municipal
courthouse. At the same time as the meeting started, protest organizers and
community members held a rally demanding to know how a driver was able to speed
through the crowds of hundreds of protesters — causing one woman to fall off
the elevated interstate — and then why police didn’t arrest the driver when he
“That is 1,000 counts of attempted vehicular homicide,” said
Candice Bailey, one of the organizers of the Saturday protest.
Deputy City Manager Jason Batchelor said that the police
department opted to use a more hands-off approach in response to Saturday’s
protest after facing weeks of criticism and a federal lawsuit for using pepper
spray and physical force on a largely peaceful crowd gathered June 27 to
protest the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police.
“We had criticism in the past from council members and
others that having police officers there would escalate the situation,”
Batchelor said officers were in the area of the protest the
whole time but that they were purposefully hidden from view. The officers did
not use any rubber bullets or other less lethal munitions, he said. The city
does not yet have an estimate of the cost of damage, but Batchelor said at
least 20 windows were broken.
Three people were injured during the protest: the woman who
fell from the highway, as well as two people who were shot when someone in the
crowd opened fire as the Jeep drove through the group.
The city’s police brass were scheduled to explain their
decisions at the study session meeting Monday evening, but were called away
after two Aurora police officers were injured in a shooting in Denver while the
meeting was underway. Instead, Batchelor answered questions from City Council
members and the mayor on behalf of the police department.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said city leadership will have
further conversations with the department about strategy regarding protesters,
whom he called “the opposition.”
An hour before the presentation to City Council, community
organizers and people who were at the protest Saturday gathered outside an
Aurora library and criticized the police for failing to keep a driver from
barreling through the hundreds peacefully demonstrating on Interstate 225 and
for choosing not to arrest the driver.
“The Aurora Police Department allowed the Jeep to come into
us and try to murder us,” Bailey said.
The man who crashed his truck into the Jeep in an attempt to
stop it from hitting people also criticized how the Jeep driver, who has not
been identified publicly by police, was not arrested.
“Elijah McClain wasn’t even allowed to walk home from the
convenience store,” Sebastian Sassi said, comparing how Aurora police reacted
to the two incidents.
The debriefing Monday is the second time in a month that
department leadership has been summoned to explain their actions while
responding to protests in front of city government buildings.
On June 30, Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson defended her
decisions to use pepper spray and force to move peaceful people off the lawn in
front of city hall during a violin vigil for Elijah McClain. She cited the
actions of a few who were pushing down fences and throwing water bottles at
police, as well as an armed person, as reasons for the aggressive push.
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