PERRY: Even in a gray world, Aurora cops must abide by unreasonable search and seizure laws

We cannot, under any circumstances, allow the police or military to round people up, detain and handcuff them, unless cops have a valid and compelling reason to suspect they’ve committed a crime. This kind of policing is what the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent.

These two things are true: The world is not a simple place; and we simply cannot allow police to go rounding up innocent Aurora residents in an attempt to catch robbers.

I didn’t come to these conclusions fast or easily. And like many of you, I’ve thought a lot about it since police Chief Dan Oates said he stands behind a June 2 ruckus involving 20 cars, 40 innocent people, a lot of handcuffs and one scary bank robber.

The story is riveting. That Saturday afternoon a robber wearing a bee-farmer’s mask burst into the Wells Fargo Bank at East Hampden Avenue and South Chambers Road. He had a pistol in each hand, was angrily barking orders and pointing the guns at a variety of people. A short time later, police surmised he was in one of a couple dozen cars eastbound on Iliff near Buckley, about two miles from the bank. So a boatload of cops, including the SWAT team, pounced on the area, stopped about 20 cars, and police began going car to car looking for the robber. Guns drawn, they forced drivers, children and passengers from their cars. They handcuffed a lot of men and some women, detaining people for about two hours.

Remarkably, they found their suspect and hustled him off, eventually letting everyone else go.

To many of our readers, it was a clear case of a wayward, brutal police department turning Aurora into a George Orwell novel to pluck off a robber or satisfy some sick hormonal problem.

It was nothing like that.

Some police supporters, however, including at least a couple of city council members, cheered police for quick, innovative thinking and for getting a bad guy off the streets.

They are equally mistaken about the wisdom of the police department’s daring but dangerous stunt.

Investigators sincerely believed that robbery suspect Christian Paetsch was a deadly menace. And, police were just as certain that by halting traffic, they could catch him.

Stopping traffic and looking for drunk-driving suspects or even dangerous suspects is pretty rare, but it’s not unheard of. And I know this is all pretty disturbing, but I don’t buy into the howling protesters claiming that machine-gun toting police Nazis have irrevocably traumatized every kid involved. It’s a bad world out there, folks. Columbine, Sept. 11 and Virginia Tech are but a few reminders of what happens when we believe America is or ever was immune to the deadly antics of crazy people.

No, from what we’ve learned, police handled the situation as expertly as a seat-of-the-pants caper like this can be carried out.

In fact, police were so professional and accommodating, that many people are overlooking the most galling point here: that police essentially stopped and rounded up about 40 people in 20 cars on an unremarkable public street in hopes of finding a crook, and they handcuffed a bunch of innocent people.

It’s chilling. Not so much that they did it, but that police officials believed they could. That they should. That they might do it again. Because there are so many compelling and dramatic issues here, and because it’s clear, at least to me, that police acted in good faith, it’s easy to overlook the big picture. We cannot, under any circumstances, allow the police or military to round people up, detain and handcuff them, unless cops have a valid and compelling reason to suspect they’ve committed a crime. This kind of policing is what the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent. By law, we prohibit police from stopping groups or individuals unless they’re suspected of committing a crime.

Just as unsettling is how dangerous the operation was, knowing that this robber was inside one of 20 cars all within shooting range of each other, and that the robber was so unhinged and so dangerous that police would go to such an extreme to get him, dozens of innocents were put at risk. That they had to handcuff people makes it obvious there weren’t enough police to handle such an improvisation.

This isn’t a decision for the Aurora police to make, at least not without the review and sanction of the public and civilian leaders.

It’s not a leap to see that such stunts are far too dangerous, and Aurora’s city council needs to step in to ensure this kind of policing, however well-intentioned, ends here.

Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or

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  • For once, this right-wing curmudgeon, agrees with you – you left-wing curmudgeon!  (. . . at least at the bottom line)

    • Brian

      Agreed, fingers on triggers as shotguns were pointed at children. You always keep your finger extended along the receiver above the triggerguard. One slip, a loud noise and a small child or anyone else innocent would be dead. And people call me a gun nut.

  • ViolinSupport

    I agree that this could have gone very wrong but that doesn’t make it wrong to do if done right (witch it was). Risks have to be taken everyday. When I was 15 I was out after curfew and was put in handcuffs. Your argument that too many handcuffs were used is void. It is policy that if anyone is being detained as a suspect for any reason they be put in handcuffs, not because there aren’t enough police but in order to protect the Police as well as the detainees. The Police have better things to do to protect us than have one cop with a hand on one detained until the event is over, that is ridiculous to expect. Second, I’m sorry but sounds to me they had due cause in stoping the cars, they claimed to be certain he was in one of the cars and THEY WERE RIGHT, looks like they knew what they were going. They didn’t stop 5 other intersections or even one other that was a wrong guess. Should it be looked at again and scrutinized and learned from yes! Was it wrong NO! Also the Risk of two Pistols while yes dangerous I’m pretty certain that the police had the area covered enough that they could protect the cars and have minimal risk of even small injuries. This is what they do, They did it well. Thank you. Hell I even knew they guy they caught, Amazing man!

    • DesireeLeigh

      Just because you don’t understand what freedome means and because you were a hooligan does not mean that the rest of us are going to roll over to the inept Aurora police department decisions.  That chief needs to go and the ones who participated need to lose a month’s salary and give it to the victims of their violent behavior.  Those who had their rights violated should sue.

  • ArtStoneUS

    So how much money was taken at the bank and why is there no mention of it being recovered with the suspect?

    • Patriot

      Totally OFF TOPIC…

      • DesireeLeigh

        No, it is not off topic but germane.  The cops were protecting a bank and its money so I think the question ArtStoneUS posed is valid.  Give us the details, please and patriot, please don’t critique other people’s comments.  That is obnoxious.

        • Patriot

          No, it is in fact off-topic.  The article is about illegal search and seizure and the actions of the police.  It has nothing to do with the original crime, or the suspect.  It does not matter how much money was taken, or whether or not it was recovered.  The actions of the police were wrong.  The rights of the people were violated.

          • DesireeLeigh

            Honestly, branding yourself patriot is not indicative of an intelligent stance on the topic, which, by the way, encompasses the original crime and the reason for the illegal arrest of innocent citizens.  You need to concentrate, “patriot,”

  • Lynn_80011

    lets just end policing as we know it..that would solve everyone’s problem….let everyone fend for themselves….stop “what if’ing” the police….the only person who started this whole thing and caused the police to do what was necessary in order to take someone like this fool off the streets is the criminal himself….i’m so disgusted that people think this was a violation of their rights.  You say hello the wrong way to someone and they feel they are wronged. Anything the police do to a citizen is a violation of their rights…no..its a way to try to make $$$.   And it is the SPLIT decision for Aurora Police to make. Not you John Q Public.  Really, the police wanted to in any way inconvenience people??? for no reason at all??? How would you like to make that decision in a blink of an eye….decide to stop everyone to make sure no one was taken hostage (which it was reported even if only by one person) and find out which car that robber was in…or say..naw..lets not check every car..because its only an armed bank robbery and god knows what else he would do to get away from the police. Then he robs another bank and this time someone resists…shots fired…yeah..make that decision..(and if you think that is just wild bs and it would never happen, please let me know how you are able to predict the future…)  Fantastic JOB APD!!!!!   You just let the bad guys know they are not welcome in Aurora….. 

    • michaelD
    • Patriot

      ok, lets just throw out the constitution and institute a police state.  That way, you can feel safe and there will be no crooks.  Papers please…

    • DesireeLeigh

      Lynn_80011, your response is so irresponsible as a citizen of a free society that it is mindboggling.  You would trade your rights for some security.  Read a little bit so that you understand the 4th Amendment to show that you are a worthy beneficiary to live in a free society.  What ifs don’t provide true counterpoints to what happened.  You should be the first marched off to the barbed-wire camp so that you might comprehend what it means to live in the USA as a free citizen.  The Aurora Police are over the top and have been for a long time. 

      Your small town mind is showing.

    • Beck

      There once was a frog named Lynn_80011.  Lynn_80011 lived a peaceful life until one day Lynn_80011 was placed in a pot of water.  At first Lynn_80011 didn’t mind even as the fire was lit beneath the pot containing her.  As the water got warmer it even felt good to her.  It was only when the lid was put on the pot and the water began to boil that she realized her true predicament.

    • Patriot

      I’d like to see how you would like to have your ass dragged out of your car at gun point, hand-cuffed and asked to sit in the sun for hours, having done nothing but mind your own business.  This situtation could have been handled better.  Failed JOB APD!!!!

    • DesireeLeigh

      Your last sentence should have added “or anyone else, for that matter.”

  • Anglo

    An interesting event and by the comments  made by a number of people commenting on this subject, demonstrates exactly what has happened to this once free nation, what used to be a sovereign nation at that.  What I am alluding to here is the violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Supreme Law of the land, that being the Constitution of the United States of America.  Stopping traffic for a cursery check is one thing, but removing people from their cars and handcuffing them is an absolute violation of the Fourth Amendment.  those people who were cuffed were in fact immediatly placed under arrest and done so with out probable cause.  As I read  the article and noticed that all men were removed from their vehicles and hand cuffed,  to include a few women, this smacks of prejudice and like it or not, the Aurora is or could be open for a class action law suite.  Obviously, those of you who approve of the action taken by the Aurora P.D., are totally un aware of the purpose and intent of the U.S. Constitution, and therein lies the problem with this nation and you same people probably wonder why you have or are loosing your freedom.  You probably don’t even realize that you have lost any freedom.  Sad, very sad indeed.  Cops don’t scare me half as much as those of you who condone this type of police action, regardless of the results.   

  • michaelD

    chief oates’ employment should be immediately terminated for cause; the officers involved who violated the rights of each of those handcuffed innocent citizens, who weren’t even suspected of committing any crimes, should be immediately suspended and prosecuted for any number of crimes to include violation of constitutional civil rights [rights, not privileges] on a massive scale, and for false arrest.

    the ends absolutely do not justify the means.

    this is nothing less than a case of domestic terrorism under color of authority.  indiana recently passed legislation which would have justified even lethal force by the citizenry against these perpetrators in uniform and quite legitimately so.  alas, that would have likely resulted in a sizable bloodbath when the uniformed officers of aurora returned [massive] fire.

    market ticker:


    • halting traffic while in pursuit of an armed bank robber; understandable

    • pulling people out of their vehicles at gunpoint; not at all ok

    • handcuffing motorists while searching for their perpetrator … far beyond not ok at all.  felonious, in point of fact.

    only armed thugs would feel comfortable acting in such a reprehensible fashion.  peace officers don’t conduct themselves this way; gang members do.   i don’t live in aurora but i do pass through the area on occasion.  unless and until these thugs are removed from the streets and prosecuted i for one will spend so little time as possible in the seemingly lawless frontier town of aurora, and i won’t spend so much as one dime there [no more trips to  town center / aurora mall, or to cinema grill].

    one wonders about this scourge of society they were looking for.  why no mention as to his identity, the amount of money taken from WFC, or amount recovered [if any?].

    acceptance of this is yet another benchmark on the path from the US being a free, democratic, constitutional society, to one which accepts fascism.  the progress is slow but inexorable and there seems to be some measure of determination in reaching that destination.  a population gets the government they deserve and this reflects on us as a people so much as it does the perpetrators.  

    finally, mr. perry, you seem to be on both sides of this issue.  you appear to contend that the APD acted professionally and properly whilst violating the law; indeed your title cites ‘unreasonable’ search and seizure laws [?!?!?].  please clarify your position.


    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
    — Thomas Jefferson, Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin, (1818)

    • Michael –

      I completely agree with your post, however I don’t think the author was calling the search and seizure laws unreasonable, rather he was using the descriptive term for the laws against unreasonable search and seizure and saying that the cops should abide by them.

      • michaelD

        mr. ladehoff … you may be right.  my concern over statements such as “No, from what we’ve learned, police handled the situation as expertly as a seat-of-the-pants caper like this can be carried out.” may have skewed my perception of his [imho] poorly-worded title.  if anything APD’s alleged professionalism should raise our level of concern, not garner any appreciation or approval;  unless of course the observer is a mercenary who drills regularly to better execute the same sort of nefarious acts.


    • Beck

       Mr Perry doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers.  He is a member of the “free press” after all.

      • michaelD

        mr. perry is at least taking on the issue and appears to be taking the correct stance.  while aurora sentinal isn’t a small privately-owned publication [aurora media group] they might avoid the serious flaws and transgressions of the large corporatized media houses like msnbc, cnn, abc, cbs, or [the bottom of the barrel] fox.

        i think we should at least give him credit for going that far.  it will be telling if he simply lets this issue fade instead of raising the stakes and keeping it in the forefront of the public awareness; or at least what passes for awareness these days.

        • Beck

           I should have been more pointed in my comment.  This mornings letter to the editor by Bill Anderson is more to the point that I was trying to make.  Mr. Perry’s true beliefs might just make him a target just like the citizens were last Saturday.  Small or large, published opinions will always draw fire from some political agency.

          Just an aside; The Aurora Sentinel seems to be a pretty vanilla and fluffy read considering all that is going on around us in our city.  So I don’t really expect any radical views to be expressed.

          Back on track, isn’t it up to us the citizens to temper the actions of our city officials.  As a community our apathy is the real crime here.

          Somehow we have come to believe that monetary damages from lawsuits is the way to communicate our disapproval.  This approach only seems to sting their ego’s since they seem to have unlimited supplies of our money.

          I agree with you that we should give Mr. Perry some credit for provoking more thought about the actions presented. But I feel that we as a community we bear the responsibility to keep these guys in check.

          Considering the fact that we are a community of over 300,00 I believe that even if only 5% were involved enough to fire off a letter to the officials voicing their opinions our community would change for the better.

          Not some form letter that everybody signs either.  Actual composed communication from individual constituents. It’s our fault that they aren’t measuring up to the professionalism that we desire.  And this is why your original comment about our liberty drew my reply. We as a community of which I am a member of don’t exercise it.

          • DesireeLeigh

            Beck, in addition to letters, flood the offices of the Mayor and City Manager with calls reflecting abhorrence of this type of treatment.  BTW, the City Animal Control is underfunded and incompetent with what is in place to catch a dog.  Isn’t that the original name of animal control offices? 

            Telephone your city council members and others mentioned above.  It should not be too difficult to let them know how displeased individuals are with this poorly run city.  They need a wakeup call, NOW.

          • michaelD

            “This mornings letter to the editor by Bill Anderson is more to the point that I was trying to make.”

            thank you for pointing that out; i hadn’t seen it

            “… isn’t it up to us the citizens to temper the actions of our city officials.  As a community our apathy is the real crime here.

            Somehow we have come to believe that monetary damages from lawsuits
            is the way to communicate our disapproval.  This approach only seems to
            sting their ego’s since they seem to have unlimited supplies of our

            correct on all counts.  alas the elected and appointed officials at all levels appear to have disconnected from their constituencies.  and rather than bearing any personal responsibility they simply pay out taxpayer dollars in civil suits.  but we put them there.  its up to us to get them out of there.  the proper tack to take is indictment, prosecution, and incarceration; not likely since those responsible to us for such actions have refused to perform their duties and seem to be ‘in cahoots’ with the transgressors.

  • Gutdoc1982

    Look at this picture:

    This is not a picture of “inconvenience.”  This is a picture of a thug recklessly endangering the life of a child.  Shame on the people who made the decision to do this, and shame on the people of Aurora if the overzealous functionaries who did this are not severely disciiplined.

  • imahead

    So rare that i agree with your comments but DEAD on here!

  • slavetotheflyrod

    Let’s call a spade a spade here, people.  

    This was armed kidnapping, assault, battery, menacing and official misconduct.  

    Not only should each and every officer that took part loose his or her job, as well as the chief, they should also face appropriate criminal charges, just the same as you and I would if we pulled a bunch of innocent people out of their cars at gunpoint, handcuffed them, and then held them against their will for two hours.  

    Criminal acts are criminal acts regardless of the motivation or the end result. A badge and a weapon changes none of that.  

    Arrest these felony suspects and let them explain their actions to a jury, or be prepared to face a major erosion of the respect for the rule of law. 

    • DesireeLeigh

      I agree with you.  Mincing words is not called for here.  The cops were clearly wrong and they are not above the law.  They should be fired for misconduct and fined.  This city needs to be taken to court over this because it is considered outrageous conduct unbecoming a police force in the USA.  PERIOD!

  • Beck

     Road blocks are common even in the days of John Dillinger, but, unbridled restraint is amateurish at best.  It seems that professionalism is a lack in many walks of life here in America these days.

    • DesireeLeigh

      Especially so in Aurora, Colorado.  It seems to have a cowboy mentality.

      • Beck

         I don’t believe that our policemen are criminals.  I believe that it is a reflection upon our leaders and how they feel about us as constituents.  Not just our community leaders but a reflection of the attitudes held by our leaders all the way up to Congress, the House, and the presidency. 

        • DesireeLeigh

          Beck, when you behave as a criminal, the tag of criminal should be applied.  They acted like thugs and criminally detained and handcuffed law-abiding citizens, while brandishing firearms directly aimed at some.  No, the police who did this are criminals. 

          • Beck

             DesireeLeigh I disagree.  These policeman were being directed by a Lieutenant and not rogue.  I agree the decisions made by this Lieutenant were albeit haphazard but the policemen were authorized.

            If the Lieutenant and Police Chief can’t abide by the wishes of the general public, whether lawful or not, they should be removed.

        • michaelD

          with respect, you are incorrect, sir.  each of us, including uniformed peace officers, is responsible for our actions.  “i was under orders” is no excuse. 

          you wouldn’t be applying that standard had they hauled these unfortunate victims off to city/county lock-up until everything was sorted out. 

          breaking into your home and cuffing you and your partner while ‘dragnetting’ your apartment building or subdivision would be no more or less offensive and illegal; yet i doubt you would be so forgiving in that instance.

          the proper response for each and every law-abiding/enforcing officer [who should be held to an even higher standard than a civilian] would be to refuse the order; its so simple as that.  following a criminal order is a criminal act.

          they were acting like gang members with no regard for the law or civil rights; not like uniformed keepers of the peace.

  • DeskEditor

    Mr. Perry,

    I think yours was a pretty courageous column, given that any criticism of the police by a newspaper tends to bring about a lot of hostile reactions. Nonetheless, I think you were right: the police stepped over the line and there are some things that we cannot lose.

    Unfortunately, the larger issue is that once we lose our liberties, we don’t get them back, and Americans apparently that by trading their liberties for a larger and, frankly, more violent police presence, they will be better off. What happens, as we know, is that the more authority that regimes grab, the more insecure they become, and the more violent they become.

    I was the one who wrote the material in the Lew Rockwell blog link, complete with the picture of the cop waving a loaded shotgun in the face of a child. If someone had been killed — and given that many cops today are trigger-happy because they know their unions back them no matter what — no doubt we would have had the usual slew of excuses.

    Yes, it is important that robbers be apprehended, but if we must resort to having what effectively is a Gestapo to do it, then the truly dangerous people are not those committing crimes on the street.

    Thank you for standing up for what was right. I noticed that the Denver Post completely took a powder. Of course, with Denver having what passes for an armed gang in blue uniforms as its police force, I guess what happened in Aurora seems tame.

    Bill Anderson  William L. Anderson, Ph.D.Associate ProfessorDepartment of EconomicsCollege of BusinessFrostburg State UniversityFrostburg, Maryland 

  • DesireeLeigh

    Whoa, the fact that the police think that they are allowed to do this reflects a gestapo mentality seen clearly in Hitler’s Germany and we all know what that result was.  The cop mentality has always been suspect to me as a citizen.  Cops are necessary but clearly overstep their bounds often.  Power begets brutish behavior.  They need to understand that free citizens will not tolerate such behavior.  If they want respect, they will have to earn it. 

  • Autocrosshotshot

    I was one of the people that was removed from his vehicle.  I was the 3rd person removed. I still have pain in my left shoulder because I was “resisting” as stated by the officer handcuffing me.  I stated to the officers that were ordering me out of my vehicle and to kneel on the ground that I could not kneel.  I told them that I have had 3 spine surguries and that if I kneel my right leg will spazum.  As expected my leg did spazum and I wound up on my face.  I find this situation very disturbing.  I was just going for milk on my way home after work.  My 4th amendment rights have they been violated?  Was I arrested? I have called an attorney when I told my story I was told to bad police have the right to to this and ended the conversation. 

    • DesireeLeigh

      I do not think that the ACLU would take the stance as that obviously cowardly and incompetent attorney did.  You need to pursue this with the ACLU and also a personal injury attorney.  Be persistent. 

  • DesireeLeigh

    I need to comment on what seems to happen in Aurora when it comes to taking care of business.  Everywhere I turn in this city, from the community college to various city departments here in Aurora, the lack of administrative guidance and complete ignorance of procedures is in strong evidence. 

    I have never seen any city in this state of disarray and wonder how the keystone cops mentality came into play here.  Aurora, I used to like living here, despite all the crime and stupidity.   Now it is becoming expedient to leave and move west of this burg because the city and police are at odds with the law-abiding citizenry.  Things are not going to improve. here if outrageous behavior continues.  It has now become too dangerous.  The time for polite editorials is over.  Man up.

    • Beck

       DesireeLeigh, I am sorry that you are feeling the way that you are about our city departments.  I have used many of the city’s amenities since I moved here four or five years ago and I don’t feel the same way as you.  Sure there are problems but there are also problems in the city West of here from where I moved from.

      I am also sorry to hear that you are considering moving away from Aurora because it appears that you have the passion that could be part of a change.  I also agree that the time for polite editorials is over but shouldn’t we be the ones as residents who “man up”?

  • AuH2OCO

    Absolutely disgusting, APD.  Can’t believe the the Chief or anybody else is trying to defend this.  A clear violation of Constitutional rights.  The picture of the the kid with two weapons aimed at his dome says it all. 

    Looks like we have a few options here.  Spend our taxpayer money defending this horrendous mistake all the way to the SCOTUS (and losing), or “accepting” the resignation of our police chief and creating some new openings in the APD.  I think the second option wins with me. 

  • 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.

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