Aurora, CO – Aurora police walked away from a four-hour armed standoff with an alleged child abuse and kidnapping suspect last month in order to “avoid unnecessary confrontation,” according to the department.
“Members of our community and across the nation have made it very clear that they want their police department to respond differently to some incidents, particularly when there is a possibility of using serious force against a subject,” the Aurora Police Department (APD) said in a statement to KCNC.
“Avoiding unnecessary confrontations was now a top priority for the department,” the statement noted. “Sometimes this means walking away from a situation and utilizing investigative resources to apprehend persons at a later time.”
The incident occurred in the Conservatory neighborhood on Sept. 24, KCNC reported.
Police said that the homeowner, 39-year-old Eric Burns, was the subject of a “valid misdemeanor no bond DV (domestic violence) warrant out of Denver.”
Burns had also allegedly abused his six-year-old daughter and assaulted his son, according to the APD.
Police responded to the home, but the suspect refused to surrender, KCNC reported.
In addition to being the subject of a “felony child abuse investigation,” police said they believed Burns was armed and had multiple firearms inside the home.
A SWAT team drove an armored vehicle onto the lawn, surrounded the house, and spent the next four hours trying to negotiate with the suspect, KCNC reported.
Burns ultimately released his young daughter several hours into the armed standoff, but refused to surrender himself.
About four hours after the incident began, the APD abruptly decided to leave Burns alone.
“Decision made to vacate,” an APD internal report on the situation read, according to KCNC.
The SWAT team and other officers packed up their gear and drove off, allowing the armed suspect to remain inside his residence unabated.
The APD later learned that Burns was wanted out of Black Hawk on a felony kidnapping warrant, but by the time they discovered that warrant existed, they had already left the suspect’s home, KCNC reported.
He has not yet been apprehended and authorities have been unable to locate him.
Burns’ neighbors said they were stunned to discover that police simply walked away from the armed standoff, KCNC reported.
“We were pretty shocked,” said resident Jasmine Staats, who lives about a block away from the suspect’s home. “We thought for sure they would have arrested someone. It’s quite concerning they would do that.”
Craig Miller, who lives across the street from Burns, said that he didn’t want the officers to end up using force, but that he wasn’t happy they left an armed suspect in his neighborhood, KCNC reported.
“After four hours and that kind of police response you kind of assume it’s ending with them taking somebody into custody,” Miller said. “Pretty surprising that after that kind of response and that kind of action that there wasn’t an arrest made.”
Less than a month before the standoff with Burns, APD walked away from two confrontations with a suspect accused of exposing himself to children and busting out the sliding-glass door of a resident’s home with a rock, KCNC reported.
Career criminal Robert Thompson, 47, had previously been convicted of resisting arrest, criminal mischief, burglary, drug offenses, and multiple assaults, according to police.
The APD was called to an apartment complex at 16130 East 17th Place on Sept. 2 after Thompson allegedly broke the glass door and exposed himself to multiple children, KCNC reported.
When officers arrived, they noted that the suspect “appeared to be delusional,” but that he was “not hurting himself or others at the time,” according to police.
After engaging in a lengthy conversation with Thompson, “it was determined that we would walk away and obtain a warrant for the charges,” the APD said.
Officers were called back to the complex the next day, after Thompson allegedly began terrorizing residents with a golf club and spray-painted a car, KCNC reported.
By that time, he had ransacked the apartment that belonged to a friend he’d been staying with.
Officers said that Thompson was “completely uncooperative” with them and holed himself up inside the apartment, KCNC reported.
Police tried to tase him at one point, but Thompson managed to barricade himself inside a bedroom.
According to police, he again seemed to be delusional.
The APD called for the fire department to respond with a ladder in order to rescue two people who were hiding from Thompson in a bedroom on the second floor, KCNC reported.
Once they were taken to safety, police packed up and left the home, leaving Thompson inside the ransacked apartment.
“We were unable to gain cooperation (from Thompson) so we walked away,” the incident report read, according to KCNC. “We will work with detectives to expedite a warrant for this person.”
Lisa Raffa, who lives in the apartment where the incident occurred, was one of the people who had to be rescued from the home.
She said she ended up having to stay a relative’s house because Thompson was still inside her apartment and refused to leave.
“He destroyed everything I had that was breakable,” Raffa told KCNC. “They tased him then they left when they should have arrested him. There’s a man in our house trying to do whatever damage he can do with a golf club and he’s not stable and you just leave? I’m speechless, I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say.”
Her boyfriend, Leander Mccoy, said he was stunned when police didn’t arrest Thompson the first time, let alone after he barricaded himself inside the apartment.
“He exposed himself to some girls,” Mccoy told KCNC. “They [the police] left. I thought it was the craziest thing I’ve seen in my life. I expected him to go to jail.”
He said he was standing with the officers the next day when they received the order to “stand down.”
“They left,” Mccoy said. “Bottom line is, they left us to deal with it by ourselves, and that’s kind of crazy.”
APD Deputy Chief Darin Parker said he “totally understands” that community members “felt like they were abandoned,” KCNC reported.
“We’re trying to get the situation resolved with the least amount of escalation, the least amount of confrontation as we can,” Chief Parker explained.
He noted that Thompson seemed to be agitated by the officers’ presence, and that they wanted to avoid having to potentially use deadly force against him.
The APD ended up going back to the apartment on Sept. 4 and arrested Thompson without any problems, KCNC reported.
“I believe the officers’ decisions and command officers’ decisions were correct in this case and were supported by the outcome,” Chief Parker said. “I will tell you I believe we got this one right. Risk assessment is an imperfect science but, in this case, we got it right.”
Thompson has been charged with five counts of misdemeanor indecent exposure, felony burglary, obstructing police, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment, KCNC reported.