HOLD UP, HELD UP AND ANSWER UP: Police roundup sparks questions

AURORA | Several days after Aurora police stopped almost 20 cars and detained 40 innocent people during a search for a pistol-wielding bank robber, questions lingered about the bizarre police operation.

AURORA | Several days after Aurora police stopped almost 20 cars and detained 40 innocent people during a search for a pistol-wielding bank robber, questions lingered about the bizarre police operation.

The Saturday afternoon operation ended with the arrest of Christian Paetsch, 45, the man police say robbed an Aurora bank wearing a bee-keeper mask and brandishing two pistols earlier that afternoon.

Christian Paetsch

Nobody was hurt in the two-hour operation, but some have raised questions about the constitutionality of stopping every car at a busy intersection and handcuffing innocent people.

“Its a very murky area of the law,” said David Lane, a Denver civil rights lawyer.

Lane said his law office has received several calls from people stopped during the operation wondering if the police department’s actions were legal.

“People have been curious to know, have their rights been violated… ” he said. “Nobody is happy about this. There are some people upset at being pulled out of their car at rifle-point and being handcuffed when they have done nothing wrong.”

Still, Aurora police Chief Dan Oates defended the department’s decision this week.

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

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 they 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.

A police department spokesman said Tuesday one of the people stopped had lodged a complaint. Oates said several others who weren’t at the scene but heard reports about the operation have lodged complaints as well.

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.

Lane said he can’t recall any local police departments launching similar operations.

The closest comparison, he said, is a DUI checkpoint, but police have to take steps during those to safeguard the rights of motorists.

And while DUI checkpoints are legal, Lane said courts have ruled that similar checkpoints looking for drugs are not. In those case, Lane said police would likely find drugs, but they can’t stop a mass of innocent drivers.

“Even though you can say with a mathematical degree of certainty that a certain percentage of the cars that drive past any intersection have drugs in them, that doesn’t mean the cops get to stop every car going through an intersection and search it for drugs,” her said.

Reach reporter Brandon Johansson at 720-449-9040 or bjohansson@aurorasentinel.com

  • Drontil

    Hopefully, every single person who was forced at gun point to exit their cars and was handcuffed will retain an attorney and force the town and its police chief of Aurora into bankruptcy.

  • Treynam

    The police screwed up big time. They may keep the robbers’ guns and the money but he’s probably gonna beat the trial. At least he should and we all would hope. It sucks that he may get off because he’s obviously scum but you cannot break our constitutional rights. Without those, we have nothing and are at the mercy of our government.

  • IdahoMan

    We’ll see ho badly you feel when you are sued into bankruptcy you terrorist thugs.

    You try something like this again, and you may very well get yourselves killed. We do have a right to defend ourselves you know.

  • ElizabethConley

    The town of Aurora would be wise to fire their Chief of Thugs as quickly as possible.  If they fire Oates and apologize with great sincerity the courts might show a little mercy.

  • Gofastgo

    They got the guy!  Good for the police.

    This smacks of not chasing a robbery suspect because he was speeding away.

    • Theo_Belk

      They violated the rights of 39 people and trapped an armed robber in their midst while people sat handcuffed on the curb. 

      Not good for the police. 

    • Wogtimmons

      Finally somebody talking with the use of a brain. The rest a few people should look to see the alternative. Quit trying to find fault with the police when it is the criminals that create these situations that the police must adapt to to keep you n your family safe
      . You seem people would of been crying at least let this guy bill

      • LOGICANDREASON

         Yeah, so since one person violates others rights (the bank robber) then that makes it ok to violate others rights who were not even involved, lets punish 39 people because one guy crossed the line.  I bet you are a fan of all the kids not getting recess because one kid was bad in the class.  Get your statism in check.

    • LOGICANDREASON

       No one said let the robber get away, but if it comes down to violating the rights of innocent people, or putting innocent tax payers and their children in harms way, yes please let the robber go.  Please think….

  • DesireeLeigh

    So what happened to all the other previous comments, Aurora Sentinel?

    • Adrenlnjnky

      APD legally detained people during the course of an investigation. They had legitimate information the robber was in the group of cars.Police Officers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t . From all the comments I’ve read… You people are morons. Good job APD and thanks.

      • DesireeLeigh

        Using your terminology, adrenlnjnky, the only moron posting here is you.  Don’t be calling  people who disagree with you unbecoming names and think that  such written abuse is clever or appropriate.    We disagree with you but we are not using the terms that would describe your mentality.

      • LOGICANDREASON

         Their information could be legitimate or it may not have been, legitimate info, or intell does not make these actions legitimate, you are free to give up your rights, but not mine.  You sir are a Moron, please stop and THINK.

    • LOGICANDREASON

       It seems they are protecting the guys with guns and badges, trying to calm the waters as quickly as possible, god forbid the slaves (erm, citizens) express dissatisfaction with their masters.

  • L. Ierardi

    “Temporary restraint”  is an arrest and such procedures amount to
    being “guilty until proven innocent”! How long will such “temporary arrest”
    last the next time that it is used?  Will
    the next use require a longer “temporary” period or, perhaps, a “short stay” in
    a jail without access to our full list of rights?

    Where did this “Chief” learn about a citizen’s civil rights?
    The thought of being arrested at gunpoint is stressful enough. Would  the “Chief”
    be held for manslaughter should one of the innocent detainees die from the stress of such a confrontation or the accidental
    discharge of a loaded firearm? 
    I think I will not be doing business in your dangerous community
    anymore! I value my freedom and my life and I will not surrender to such abuse
    and arrogance!

    • DesireeLeigh

      You are correct to avoid this gestapo-mentality town.  I am looking to move as soon as feasible.  It has always had a kangaroo court mentality. 

  • Patriot6964

    What if the police had determined that the suspect was in one of 19 homes instead of cars?  Would
    you say they would be right to invade every one of those homes, handcuff every adult in those homes and
    search each of those homes until they found the suspect?

    Of course not.

    And one further point.  You have an armed suspect and you think it is smart to pull people out of their cars and
    have them sitting on the side of the road, right in the middle of a potential shootout?  Idiocy.

  • Dan

     this is what happens when corruption takes hold of a country…starts at
    the top…a corrupt regime in Washington trickles down to the
    states…this is trickle down corruption…just because you think you
    have the power doesn’t mean you use the power…the ends justifies the
    means…isn’t that what Hitler..Mao..Stalin…and all the other murders
    of the past and present think…this justifies the use of power to
    enslave the people because after all they had to protect them….it was
    for they’re own good you know….they’re own good…plus we show them
    who the BOSE really is…and its not the people….

  • Tismichael

    As I understand it, the bank teller put a GPS tracking device inside the money bag.
    If they knew where he was going and had  a way to track him, why did the police not do this more discretely?  Why did they have to violate the constitutional rights of 40 people just to catch one bad one? 

    If I were one of the 40 I would not have filed a complaint with the city, I would have sought legal advice and would be following the advice of my lawyer.

    Just because the city has not had many complaints from the people that were affected does not mean they won’t hear from them in another manner.

    We need to remove Dan Oates from office and seriously consider what further actions need to be taken on the other people that were involved in the decision to conduct a stop like this.

    I know a person that was in a situation where police officers, including SWAT officers, were involved in an operation where they were going after someone in an apartment building.  Upon seeing a child, the police officers pointed their guns in the air and not at the child.  Why did the officers involved in this operation feel the need to point their guns at children?  If they knew the suspect was alone, why did they feel the need to harrass families?  If they had a GPS tracking device in the money bag, why did they not use a detection device to find what car the money was in?

    • DesireeLeigh

      Timichael, you make valid points and I agree that Oates needs to go NOW.

  • Matt

    Thank god the police took one more criminal off the street. God forbid you were inconvenienced for a little while. Next time the criminal goes into a bank and shoots someones and kills someone we will see how inconvenienced you are. Be thankful someone took the courage to standup and defend you and keep you safe. If you think you could do a better job, GO GET A POLICE JOB APPLICATION! I applaud the Aurora PD for treating everyone with respect and dignity during the car checks and taking the suspect into custody! Good Job!!!

    • imahead

      so much for the 4th ammendment huh…

    • LOGICANDREASON

       GOOD JOB STATIST!  Next time a criminal (a police officer) kills someone (possibly you or a loved one) because of a statist sheep like remember it was all in the name of your saftey.  If you think you need police like this then you should move to Mexico, they have tons of them and they make the people real safe.  THINK…..

  • imahead

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

      FIRE OATES!

  • imahead

    funny when the cops come out to defend them selves..

  • Last night, as I listened to the council discuss the possibility of Aurora becoming both a city and a county, I wondered how many of us trust Aurora to do right by its citizens. How many of us trust Aurora employing our District Attorney? Do we trust Aurora with welfare, social services or health inspections?

    My answer is NO….incidents like this are the reason that Aurora has a credibility problem. If our city leadership cannot handle its current duties in a fair, transparent, and honest manner, why would we give them more responsibilities?

    The police department got lucky when they detained and handcuffed innocent civilians and illegally searched their cars.  They could have gotten a lot of innocent people killed. They violated the civil rights of numerous people rather than wait to track a suspect to a less congested location. They spent a lot of taxpayer money and risked the safety of innocent civilians just to recover $2,000 of insured money for a bank. Personally, I’m wondering if the alleged robber will get away with the crime due to the novel way the police caught him.

    This situation is appalling. It casts a bad light on our city. This will cost the mayor and council the trust of the people. It may even serve to thwart goals held dearly by our lawmakers.

    The citizens of Aurora need a promise that this will NEVER happen again…
    the sooner, the better.

    • LOGICANDREASON

       Yeah Sheilah, interesting how 39 tax payers are less important and their rights by extension than wells Fargo’s $2,000.00.  Seems like Wells Fargo should be paying all the bills since they are the only ones that the police feel they work for, not the 39 people they made late to meetings, events, jobs and family, who will recover their losses from the police, should they have an agency hold the police in custody until they get their losses recovered?  BTW, move from Aurora.

  • LOGICANDREASON

    This needs to be corrected, it is NEVER EVER EVER EVER ok to violate ones rights, even if you think or do in fact need to do it to catch a bad guy, it’s a brick wall the police and other retards in power should be forced to work around, not be made exceptions.  I thought we were all equal, what would happen if me and my friends were wearing blue costumes and decided to detain 39 people at gunpoint, would everyone wait to hear our explanation.  If we are all equal then that means the police and other govt officials and that also means they do not have any rights we do not have, and if everyone ran around stopping everyone at gunpoint it would be complete chaos, so in the interest of reason and logic can we please fire all involved in this incident. And please do not tell me that the other police were just following orders, any orders which are unlawful they do not have to follow, they all went along with this voluntarily.  All govt parties involved should be fired and tried for every applicable charge they would normally throw at a civilian doing the same thing.  If you want your freedom you are all going to have to start using your brains.

  • Sorry for the inconvenience everyone.  Are you kidding me? 

  • fg

    its obvious with everything that is going on in that town its one big black ops program, they knew where he was going because it was a setup to stage this event get it in the news and see how people react, will they all sue, will they be obedient, the whole excuse is just lame, sure you have a right to stop me, search my car, but then when you don’t um FIND ANYTHING IN MY CAR YOU LET ME GO!!!!!!! not hold me for 2 hours in the line of fire, 15-30mins, reasonable, 2 fing hours pulled out by gun point, yah wake up people that is a psy ops town, get out before your the next causality