City of Aurora being sued for mass detention during robbery search

Fourteen people filed the suit May 16 in the Colorado District Court, against the city and its attorneys, saying the two-and-a-half hour detention near East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road was unconstitutional search and seizure

AURORA | The City of Aurora, its police chief and others are named in a lawsuit alleging that a massive 2012 search for a bank robber violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

Fourteen people filed the lawsuit, which was filed May 16 in the Colorado District Court, against the city and its attorneys, saying the two-and-a-half hour detention near East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road was unconstitutional search and seizure. Police rounded up nearly 30 people for hours searching for Christian Paetsch, who robbed a nearby bank.

After the roundup the police action was criticized, but police Chief Dan Oates said at the time that the search would hold up if tested in court.

The former music teacher who robbed an Aurora bank last summer was sentenced last April to seven years in prison.

Paetsch’s robbery of an Aurora Wells Fargo on June 2, 2012, gained national attention after Aurora police stopped at least 25 vehicles at an intersection and held them at gunpoint for almost an hour during their search for the robber. Eventually, a tracking device hidden in the stacks of cash lead investigators to Paetsch. In his car, cops found the beekeeper mask, gun and money from the bank.

A man identified as Christian Paetsch in a photo from a private music lesson website.
A man identified as Christian Paetsch in a photo from a private music lesson website.

The lawsuit said police pulled several people from their cars who didn’t remotely match the description of the robber, who was described as a white male about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds.

In one case, police pulled a black man from his car in front of his two sons, who were 9 and 6, and his 2-year-old daughter. The lawsuit said the daughter soiled herself during the stop and police wouldn’t let her parents change her diaper. The two boys also were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident and now fear people in uniforms, the lawsuit said.

Another driver with epilepsy said police wouldn’t let her grab her son’s asthma inhaler during the stop, and he suffered a lengthy asthma attack.

The traffic stop sparked a flurry of criticism of Aurora police and Paetsch’s lawyer argued it was unconstitutional and tried to have the evidence seized from the car thrown out.

But last fall a judge sided with police and prosecutors and said the stop was legal.

Police and federal prosecutors said the stop lasted longer than it should have in part because it was a Saturday afternoon and the FBI agent who knew how to use a monitor for the tracking device was more than a hour away from the scene when he was called.

The suit faulted the police department, and specifically Chief Oates, for not having a monitor that could quickly locate the tracking device and instead relying on the FBI, whose offices are closed on Saturdays and are located near Downtown Denver.

Paetsch said in court this year that he robbed the bank in a “moment of despair.” He said he was going through trouble in his family life and bank robbery was his bizarre response to those problems.

Prosecutors said the bank had declined to restructure a loan for Paetsch a day before he robbed it.

  • John

    Those officer who complied with this order to break their oaths should at the very least have a reprimands in their papers. The officer giving the authorization should be relieved of his duty. They may have meant well, but they took a very wrong course of action.

    This a very slippery slope they started down. Whats next? Search every house in a neighborhood because a criminal might be residing there? How about searching every vehicle like a border crossing at the off chance of criminal activity.

    • Robert

      The chief said it is ok, what a relief. Will his pension be taken or give it up, ya know since the buck stops here. Never, the tax payer will pay,

    • Richard Renalds

      Can you explain how they “broke their oaths?” The stop was lawful and necessary. It’s no slippery slope; it was necessary. They had not only reasonable suspicion, but probable cause.

      Had the police not done what they did with the information and circumstance they had, you’d be the same person, along with David Lane, complaining if the ARMED robber hurt someone.

      PTSD? Give me a fricking break

      • Jason

        “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

        Unlawfully detaining 30 people and searching their vehicles without a warrant that clearly did not match the description of the bank robber. There was no probable cause to detain them.

        BTW I do agree with your PTSD assessment, but it still does not make what the police did right or constitutional.

        • Richard

          You don’t need a warrant for a vehicle. It’s called the motor vehicle exception. And, they were not randomly searching vehicles despite the news.

          Those people were being detain. There was probable cause that the suspect was in that immediate area at that immediate time.

          • john

            Actually, you do need a warrant. You do have the right to refuse a search of your car. If you refuse, you can be detained until they obtain a search warrant.

          • Richard

            Ummmm…. No you don’t.


            Or look up US Supreme Court case law. They had PC.

          • Chris

            Why wouldn’t you post US Supreme Court Case Law? Which law do you speak of. Having a criminal in the area in no way constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain these innocent citizens. Every state has different laws on that too. National doesn’t explain each states’ law on this.

            Why would you want this to happen in America. This is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany, and the way our government is making the most free nation on the planet a police state bothers anyone who has any common sense.

            Remember what happened to Nazi Germany. The world turned on them, and where are they now…Dead, tried and hanged for malicious acts against humankind. Law Abiding Citizens make up the majority of our country, but the when the law has changed to be unjust, and inhumane, we have a right to rebuke and protest against this law according to how our country was established to make it a free and popular nation.

            That’s why we have radicals in our government being investigated and there are different parties. So that it’s a collective decision. The biggest reason why we aren’t free now, is because of Mal-intent Gov. Officials, that strayed from our rights because “We need protection” and the “American people don’t know what’s best for them” Look at the 70s and look at now. We are not as free as we were, and we’re on the verge of economic collapse, nuclear war, martial law, government takeover.

            They let Civilians create, invent, produce, manufacture, and labor the country’s supply, then they hold all rights to the supply. According to Obama’s Exec. Orders our government on all 3branches have control of the country’s resources in case of just cause to do so. Which they can implement by making certain adjustments to law along the way. But enough speaking clear logic to someone who is so blinded already, maybe others who view this will have a better understanding of the country’s current affairs.

          • Rick

            Richard… you’re stretching. While the automobile rule would seem to support your contention, it deals with the admissibility of evidence in a trial. ADIMSSIBILITY IS NOT AT ISSUE HERE.
            The issue here is a civil rights violation, plain and simple. This will go to the USSC and will be important case law in three or four years.

          • Aldo Elmnight

            You need probable cause of the driver to search a vehicle. You need reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed a crime to detain them (even when they are driving). Suspicion that a criminal might be in an area satisfies neither condition. If your logic was true then random check points to “check papers” would be OK. But I guess you would like that.

          • Vickie Roberts

            We do have random checks…they check to make sure you have license, registration, and insurance. This has happened to me twice in different cities in Alabama. No big deal for I’ve nothing to hide.

          • Aldo Elmnight

            That is unconstitutional.

          • vladimirulayanov

            How long have you worked for the Aurora PD?

      • Aldo Elmnight

        Police officers swear to uphold the US and Colorado Constitutions. They violated the 4th amendment of everyone there even the bank robber.

        • Tomas Romero

          Oh really wise one. A federal judge disagreed with your nonsense. His rights were not violated and he’s now sitting in a jail cell.

          You watch too much CSI. The actions of the police under those particular circumstance was lawful.

          • Aldo Elmnight


          • vladimirulayanov

            Federal judges make mistakes. Lots of them.

          • Ben Doerflinger

            Sure and federal judges are siding with police nationwide giving them get out of free jail cards for 9/10ths of the crap they pull. Doesn’t mean they’re right. Means that the system is broken.

      • vladimirulayanov

        No it wasn’t. Just because a judge says its ok doesn’t make it so. You don’t do a mass arrest in the name of knowing at least one of them is the right guy. Next time there is a murder in Aurora, they gonna arrest the whole town? That’s fascism.

      • vladimirulayanov

        Reasonable suspicion and probable cause? How do you figure that? If they had gps, they could’ve easily waited until they could identify the car the robber was in.

  • For the Dummies

    God some of you people are so gnorant.

    What was done was extreme; however, it was legal. A federal judge even agreed (the judge for the robbery suspect, per his motion hearing to attempt to suppress).

    All the Tools who scream constitutional rights, yet they have no clue what they’re talking about. David Lane is wasting his time. He won’t get squat out of this. A judge will dismiss it.

    • John

      Your no longer allowed to speak. Your words are offensive to others. While were at it, as an anonymous tipster, I think you have drugs in your house. Are you ready for your SWAT raid? Better not be holding a soda can. Are you ready to be silenced or sent to a 1st amendment area to protest. This is already happening in America.

      We “tools” are merely trying to put a check on the balance of power that has so clearly left the citizens and been handed over to a system that is diving head long into a police state.

      • Kale

        Settle down, you watch too much TV, and are doing way too much “research” on the internet.
        Federal judge has already ruled on this, this is a way for David Lane to get in the news. Nothing more, nothing less.
        As for the poor taxpayers having to pay… Again, settle down. This is why cities pay insurance. Pick up a quarter off the street and you have been reimbursed for your contribution.
        End of the day a bank robber was caught. Lay blame on his feet, and sue him for the “pain and suffering”. Nah, he has no $$, so sue the city.
        Your anger is misguided. Take your TV law degree somewhere else.

        • Jason

          The supreme court also ruled separate but equal, that didn’t make it right.

          Pull your head out of the sand.

        • Aldo Elmnight

          Most cities are self insured. The citizens will be paying for the City’s lawyers and the court settlement.

    • Alan

      Your ignorance of the constitution and precedents set it this context is typical of nitwits like you.

      • Marty

        Oh loo, another moron that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Read the link and maybe study up on the constitution and case law rather getting your vast education for LA Law reruns.

    • Aldo Elmnight

      Slavery was deemed “legal” as well.

    • Chris

      I can’t speak for anyone else on here. What I can say is that the law is wrong and unconstitutional. So if they suspect a murderer in the area after a murder, they will in turn arrest everyone in that area…Hmm.

      Think about that.

      The people who opposed what happened, and filed the lawsuit against the police department were normal civilians that are busy with work and kids and have no clue about constitutional law. That makes them naive not ignorant.

      Politicians have decades to spend working the law seeing as how it is their profession. You can’t be mad at the American people who never would want these laws to be enacted, but had no clue the laws were even made. So it’s politicians that get away with working together to enact laws, as they should be working together, but what that does is piss the American people off that learn about the laws after being arrested, and charged with a crime against that law.

      All of the new laws in the past 5years aren’t things that you could have prior knowledge about based on the average human being’s common sense. They are laws that have help amend current events, but most are not widely publicized as the majority of America knows not how to find reliable sources of information. And there aren’t politicians that make these laws into Lamens terms for the public to understand.

      My point is there is a HUGE disconnect from the everyday civilians, and even military families to the laws that are being written due to the fact that there is so many laws written every week and no easy way to figure them all out so that you know if you are breaking a law or not.

      If the role was reversed: Politicians have no clue how to rebuild a car (FOR EXAMPLE) But a mechanic who knows nothing about politics can rebuild that car in a week because he knows the ins and outs. The mechanic makes a profit off of people who don’t have the knowledge to fix a car, because that’s what he does everyday. If the knowledge was leaked to the public, then anyone could fix their own cars.

      What should we do to change this? Here’s a plan: If every American had the knowledge of what each law meant, why it was passed, how it was created and passed: Then there would be balance that is necessary to survive and prosper as a nation. Other countries like New Zealand have figured that out already. Same with Australia.

      Biggest point of that last paragraph is *Abundant Wealth through Abundant Knowledge is better in every way than *Secular Wealth through Selective Knowledge/Exclusive Knowledge.

      But it will take all of the baby boomers to die off before any of that will happen.

  • 4thAmdt
    • Aldo Elmnight

      Yes, there are many statists like “Richard” in this country.

  • John

    The chief and his band of barney phife morons should be fired and sued individually as well. I hope these folks prevail and worry about the state of our police state if they don’t.
    How disgusting.

  • Richard


    You Monday night constitutionalists can educate yourselves.

    • Aldo Elmnight

      I do not find it surprising that this judge is from Chicago and was appointed by Obama. His ruling essentially dismisses a long list of precedent cases that says what the officers did was illegal. I think Judge William J. Martínez should be impeached.

  • Aldo Elmnight

    About time. I guess the City Council does not care about the rights of those they claim to represent. Unfortunately I and the other citizens in Aurora will pay for this, not the officers involved.

  • Ashley In Aurora

    If the police didn’t have a monitor and didn’t know how to use a monitor, how did they know which 25 cars should be detained?

  • Loretta Burford

    They had had no clue who they were looking for in the beginning .. Because if they did they would not have stopped and violated that many people in the first place… They were hoping they would get lucky and find the robber….Just like with every traffic stop they hope to find a bigger fish…. One day (Judgement day) these men and women (Thugs with Badges ) will have to answer to God and oh happy day that will be

  • Roberteen Bruce

    I was just talking about this with my grandson.. I saw an article on Facebook complaining about a statement made ” we need more black cops” the writer called it racism to say that. My grandson was stopped that day in 2012. A white cop pulled him out of the car and placed his left arm behind him. They didn’t know because of football he has a pin in his shoulder, but a black cop stopped the white cop and told him to let him go. We were discussing the difference the way the two cops handled my grandson. I wondered if the black cop new my grandson from High School football or he new the description was not correct. My grandson is 6′ 2′ 240 and black. The bank robber is 5’9′ white and wore a face covering. They had lined up all black men on the sidewalk when the black cop said, let him go. If the while cop had continued holding my grandson’s left arm he would have flinched and then the cop may have gotten angry saying he is resisting. That would have caused big trouble for my grandson. because the black cop said no let him go, it did not happen. I am glad their was a black cop present.