DENVER – The City of Aurora has agreed to pay $75,000 to ACLU of Colorado clients Omar Hassan and Dwight Crews, two black men who sued over separate incidents of mistreatment by the Aurora Police Department.
According to an ACLU lawsuit filed in September 2017, two Aurora police officers ordered Hassan to leave a coffee shop after telling him, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.” He will receive $40,000.
Crews, a disabled 60-year-old man, was removed from his home without a warrant in the middle of the night, restrained, thrown to the ground, and unlawfully arrested by Aurora police. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf in November 2017. He will receive $35,000.
“These settlements add to a multi-year trend of taxpayers footing the bill, in case after case, as Aurora police officers are repeatedly sued for violating the constitutional rights of people of color,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “How many lawsuits will it take? The Aurora Police Department needs to do some serious self-examination regarding how its officers respond to persons of color, and the city must establish an independent system of accountability. The alternative is a further decline in community trust, more incidents, and more lawsuits.”
See below for a map of Aurora police incidents involving people of color.
On March 16, 2016, Omar Hassan entered a Caribou Coffee in Aurora and approached the counter to purchase a muffin. He had just finished a night shift at work and was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, and work boots. Two Aurora police officers followed Hassan to a table, stood directly over him with their hands on their guns, and commanded him to leave. When Hassan asked why, one of the officers responded, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”
According to the ACLU lawsuit, the officers’ targeting of Hassan based on his dress, followed by their choice of words in removing him from a place of public accommodation, made his experience “unique in its reflection of both historical and modern-day racism.”
On November 14, 2015, Aurora Police visited Dwight Crews’ home at 2 a.m., about two hours after he intervened to stop his stepdaughter from being physically abused by her husband. The officers, who had no warrant, banged loudly on his door, flashed lights in his windows, and threatened to break into the home if he did not come out.
When Crews came to the door, the officers ordered him to step out onto his porch. As they started to pat him down, he noticed his cat, pointed, and said, “My cat’s outside!” One of the officers threw Crews to the ground, slamming his body on top of jagged loose rocks. Crews, whose spine was damaged from a previous car accident, sustained multiple, lasting injuries.
Last July, Aurora paid $110,000 to settle claims of ACLU client Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”
“In too many cases, we hear of persons of color being mistreated by the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect them,” Silverstein said. “The ACLU will continue pushing city officials and police departments to address this problem in Aurora, in Colorado, and throughout the country.”
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.