Chief defends detaining 40 during Aurora bank robber hunt

“We had a virtual certainty that the bank robber was in one of those cars,” Oates said.

Brandon Johansson, Staff Writer

AURORA | Aurora police Chief Dan Oates today defended the department’s decision to stop almost 20 cars and detain 40 people Saturday during a search for a pistol-wielding bank robber.

Oates said the operation, which included handcuffing all the men and some women, was unusual, but necessary.

“We had a virtual certainty that the bank robber was in one of those cars,” Oates said.

An armed robber gestures at a customer inside the Wells Fargo Bank at East Hampden Avenue and South Chambers Road on June 2, 2012.

Officers did find the suspect in one of the cars, and he will likely face bank robbery charges in federal court, Oates said. Investigators also found a beekeeper mask they say the man wore during the robbery as well as two pistols connected to the crime, he said.

The United States Attorney’s Office in Denver identified the man this evening as Christian Paetsch, 45. He was charged today with armed bank robbery and using a gun during a crime of violence, prosecutors said.

Oates said Paetsch was from Centennial and had one misdemeanor arrest on his record.

The incident started around 3:50 p.m. Saturday when police say the robber barged into a Wells Fargo Bank at East Hampden Avenue and South Chambers Road and pointed a gun several people in the bank.

The robber, who was wearing a mask that covered virtually all of their face, then fled the area.

Oates said officers determined that the robber had to be in one of 19 vehicles headed east on East Iliff Avenue near South Buckley Road at about 4:20 p.m. The intersection is about two miles northeast of the bank.

Oates declined to say exactly how officers knew the suspect was going to pass through the intersection, but stressed that investigators were certain he would.

Officers didn’t have details about the suspect’s appearance, including gender and race, so they stopped every car, Oates said.

The operation lasted more than two hours and Oates said officers searched just the one car where they found the mask, guns and suspect.

Oates said “investigative detentions” like the one Saturday are very rare, but allowable under the law.

None of the 40 people detained have lodged complaints, Oates said, but the department has heard complaints form other people who weren’t involved in the stops.

Oates apologized for the inconvenience the operation imposed on people, but said it was needed to catch a dangerous bank robber.

“No question we inconvenienced citizens, and I feel badly about that,” Oates said.

The operation will be reviewed, Oates said, but he stands by the lieutenant who ordered it.

“I can’t find fault with the decisions that were made,” he said.

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