Aurora, CO – Aurora police officers were trapped inside the District 1 station house for hours July 3 night after protesters chained the doors shut and plotted to storm the building.
The incident occurred when protesters demonstrating at a memorial for 23-year-old Elijah McClain marched to the Aurora Police Department’s District 1 station house near Montview and Wheeling just after 8 p.m. on July 3, KDVR reported.
Protesters chained the doors of the police station shut from the outside, trapping officers inside.
Aurora police have refused to comment on how many officers were locked inside the building for approximately seven hours, KDVR reported.
“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.
“Come get your message across. That’s great, but to put officers’ lives at risk or the community’s lives at risk because we can’t respond because we are trapped inside of a building, that’s not right,” Aurora police said.
Protesters served Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson with a list of demands shortly after 8 p.m. that included the termination of the rest of the officers involved in the death of McClain on Aug. 24, 2019.
Lessons in successful occupation tactics:
Activists in Aurora, Colorado, are blocking the entrance/exit to the District 1 Station, demanding the cops who killed #ElijahMcClain be arrested
Their tactic forced Police Cheif Vanessa Wilson to call & engage the community directly https://t.co/GFCdJrZxK1
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) July 6, 2020
Cheif Wilson was just on the phone with a Denver PSL member. They projected the conversation on the mic. Chief Wilson said she did not have the power to fire the police who killed Elijah McClain.
Crowd boos. Call ended. The occupation continues. #aurora #ElijahMcClain
— kp (@KPouthere) July 4, 2020
@GovofCO @AuroraMayorMike @AuroraPD I hope you shut down this occupation before it gets out of control as it did in Seattle. Our government should not be bullied into filing charges unless there is clear evidence a crime was committed rather than a series of unfortunate events
— Maggie Halverson (@mommahalvee) July 4, 2020
The incident occurred when police responded to a call about a suspicious person wearing a mask and waving their arms on Billings Street, the Denver Post reported.
When police arrived on the scene, the suspect – later identified as McClain – refused police commands to stop so they could talk to him.
Police tried to detain McClain and he resisted arrest, and so they used a takedown move and pinned the 140-pound man to the ground.
“Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain told the officers in bodycam video, the Associated Press reported.
Officers used a “carotid control hold” on McClain, according to the Denver Post.
The suspect told police he couldn’t breathe and vomited several times, but he also continued to resist arrest.
Officials said one of the officers requested that paramedics who arrived on the scene dispense a sedative to the still-resisting suspect, KMGH reported.
Paramedics gave McClain a 500 milligram dose of ketamine to calm him down.
However, Aurora police said bodycam video proved it wasn’t the officers’ idea to sedate McClain, KMGH reported.
He suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and never regained consciousness, the Associated Press reported.
McClain died on Aug. 30, 2019, three days after he was taken off life support.
The Aurora Police Department investigated and the district attorney for the 17th Judicial District determined there was no criminal wrongdoing by the officers involved, the Denver Post reported.
But after the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, riots erupted in Aurora as protesters demanded the officers involved in McClain’s case be charged.
In late June, Colorado Governor Jared Polis directed Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser by executive order to investigate McClain’s death in custody and prosecute those involved if he determined it was warranted.
Then pictures of several Aurora police officers mugging for the camera at the site of McClain’s death became public and outraged the community even more, The New York Times reported.
On Friday morning, Chief Wilson fired Aurora Police Officers Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jason Rosenblatt for conduct unbecoming.
Aurora Police Officer Jaron Jones had already resigned on June 30, The New York Times reported.
“While the allegations of this internal affairs case are not criminal, it is a crime against humanity and decency,” Chief Wilson said at a press conference when she announced their terminations. “To even think about doing such a thing is beyond comprehension and it’s reprehensible. It shows a lack of morals, values and integrity, and a judgment that I can no longer trust to allow them to wear this badge.”
Former Officers Marrero, Dittrich, and Jones allegedly took grinning selfies at McClain’s memorial shortly after his death.
One of the pictures featured Officer Dittrich with a big smile as Officer Jones wrapped his arm around his neck with Officer Marrero smiling behind them, The New York Times reported.
The pictures were sent to Officer Rosenblatt, who was one of three officers who was involved with the arrest of McClain.
Chief Wilson said then-Officer Rosenblatt replied back “haha” when he received the pictures, The New York Times reported.
Another officer involved in McClain’s arrest, Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard, also received the pictures but deleted them immediately so he wasn’t fired, the Sentinel reported.
“He is devastated by this and disgusted,” Chief Wilson said.
Protesters had threatened to continue their occupation of the area around the police station until the police chief fired and charged all of the officers involved in McClain’s arrest.
However, the officers have a right to due process under their collective bargaining agreement and cannot be summarily fired to satisfy protesters’ demands.