Aurora, CO – The mayor of Aurora has demanded to know why police didn’t better defend the city’s municipal courthouse from a riotous mob on Saturday night but he also made it clear he doesn’t want any outside help sent to his city.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman spoke in an interview with KOA on Monday during which he expressed concern about why police had allowed protesters to break down the newly-installed iron fence around the city’s municipal center, smash windows, and set the inside of the municipal courthouse on fire.
Protests began early in the evening on July 25 with a march in protest of the death of Elijah McLain after he was arrested by Aurora police in August of 2019.
The march turned violent after protesters blocked Interstate 225 and a Jeep drove through the people demonstrating in the middle of the highway, KCNC reported.
A protester then opened fire on the Jeep.
Two protesters were wounded in the chaos – one was shot and another sustained a graze wound, KCNC reported.
Neither protester’s wounds were considered life threatening.
“While the protestors were walking on I-225, a vehicle decided to drive through the crowd. A protestor decided to fire off a weapon, striking at least 1 other protestor. They were transported to the hospital in stable condition,” the Aurora Police Department tweeted.
The mayor told KOA the Aurora police had “provided safety for protesters” when they shut down I-225 to block traffic in June and questioned what had gone wrong on Saturday.
“What were the efforts to do that this time?” Coffman asked. “How did the vehicle get through?”
Police located the Jeep quickly and briefly detained the driver, KCNC reported.
The Jeep has been impounded but police released the driver after he was interviewed.
Aurora police tweeted on Monday that they had arrested the person who fired a weapon at the Jeep and struck protesters.
Thank you to everyone who submitted tips about the identity of the Interstate 225 shooter. We have made an arrest & he is in custody
— Aurora Police Dept. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@AuroraPD) July 28, 2020
After the larger march dissolved as darkness fell on Aurora Saturday night, a group of violent protesters made their way to the city courthouse and launched an assault on the complex.
A number of rioters in black bloc jumped on the new security fence and rocked it until they knocked it down, KCNC reported.
Police said the rioters tore the plywood coverings off the courthouse windows, smashed the windows, and went inside, where they trashed the building and used the plywood from the windows to start fires in offices.
The mayor condemned the protesters’ actions during his interview with KOA.
“There is a right to peaceful protest but there’s no right to violence,” Coffman said.
But then he pointed the blame at the Aurora police again.
“There’s no question that this might have been a reaction to all of the complaints [against the police department],” Coffman told KOA.
He said police on Saturday used “extreme restraint” and bragged that officers didn’t use any less-lethal munitions this time to push back the protest.
“And the question is where is the balance between exercising appropriate force – exercising restraint – and protecting the city’s property that the taxpayer is going to have to pay for?” Coffman asked.
The mayor told KOA the estimate to replace the windows was more than $250,000, and that wasn’t counting the damage done to the fence and gate.
“We are not going to become Portland,” he declared. “We can’t simply sit by and let people destroy our property. And I know this courthouse is going to be a target again and we have to be able to defend it.”
Despite his earlier criticism of the police department’s defense of the municipal center, Coffman told KOA he didn’t want outside help from any other law enforcement agency.
“I believe they’re 100 percent capable of it and I have no desire, er, I don’t think we need resources from outside the city of Aurora to take care of this,” the mayor said.
He insisted the violence and vandalism were only being committed by a small portion of the protesters.
Only July 3, rioters chained the doors shut from the outside on the Aurora Police Department’s District 1 station house and held police hostage for hours while they plotted how to storm the building.
“The unfortunate part is they trapped our officers inside, not just them being around the building, but physically wrapping ropes and other items around the doors of the district one station, around the entry exit gates our patrol cars come out of… that was probably the most dangerous part,” Aurora Police Department Spokesman Officer Matthew Longshore said.
Angry protesters barricaded the streets and vandalized the exterior of the police station, KDVR reported.
Police didn’t move in to clear out the protesters locking their fellow officers in the station until about 3:30 a.m. on July 4 when rioters began shooting fireworks at officers in the area.
The lock-in had been going on for about seven hours by then, according to KDVR.
“They were starting to take the big mortar style type fireworks while they were trying to untie the gates so officers could come and go, they started throwing fireworks at them. Not only that, someone had a fire extinguisher, they were spraying our officers with a fire extinguisher. We didn’t use any force until they started doing it to us, that’s when we used 40-millimeter foam rounds, no pepper spray or tear gas or smoke,” Officer Longshore explained.
He said that the decision to let the protesters keep the officers locked in was made intentionally, KDVR reported.
“There wasn’t a rush to come in move people out,” Officer Longshore said. “The officers were safe inside. We wanted to give the people the ability to express their First Amendment right, to protest, peacefully assemble and make their voices heard, so we didn’t have an immediate rush to go in and clear people out. Waiting a little bit longer, the crowd size became smaller, so we had an advantage.”
Afterward, police found full gas cans and other homemade weapons hidden in the area around the police station, KDVR reported.
“We found gas cans, full of gasoline that were staged in that immediate area,” Officer Longshore said.
Officers were unable to respond to 911 calls in the area for the seven hours protesters surrounded District 1, KDVR reported.