Due Process

Court Says Mass Detention of Motorists is OK

Dozens were handcuffed and held at gunpoint while the Gestapo ... err ... police looked for a bank robber


Police in Aurora, Colorado did nothing wrong when they handcuffed dozens of motorists and held them at gunpoint for an hour and forty-five minutes, according to a ruling issued last month. US District Court Judge William J. Martinez refused to play the role of a Monday morning quarterback in deciding whether the controversial mass detention violated the Fourth Amendment rights of drivers who had been going about their business on a Saturday afternoon.

On June 2, police were responded to the robbery of a Wells Fargo Bank. A masked man waved a gun in one hand and an air horn in another, ordering customers to get down on the floor as he scooped stacks of cash into a bag. He walked out, but a GPS tracker on the money revealed his location within a thirty-foot radius. Police had a better scanner that could narrow the range to five feet. Officers noticed at around 3:52pm that day, the signal showed the robber had stopped on Greenwood Drive, but they did not respond before he began moving again three minutes later. At 4pm, Officer Kristopher McDowell followed the signal to the intersection of Iliff Avenue and Buckley Road and order all twenty cars in the vicinity to stop. Thirty more officers soon arrived.

Twenty-nine drivers and passengers were ordered to remain in their cars without moving, holding their hands outside the window of their cars while officers trained their guns on them. At no point was anyone allowed to use a restroom, contact families or tend to young children in the backseat of vehicles. Nobody was informed about the reason they were being detained.