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Drum, Whistle, Laser Led to Arrests at Protest at GEO Warden's Home

Officers from the Aurora Police Department and protesters outside the home of Johnny Choate, warden of the GEO facility in Aurora.EXPAND
Officers from the Aurora Police Department and protesters outside the home of Johnny Choate, warden of the GEO facility in Aurora.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh

Just a few hours after the September 19 protest outside of the home of the warden of the GEO immigrant detention facility, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz took to Twitter to air his grievances with demonstrators.

“What I saw tonite by many of U who protested in residential cmty w/children was vile&disgusting. @AuroraPD protects free speech, but your message was completely lost. U were out of your league. My cops were simply AMAZING despite your attempts to bait them into a confrontation!” Metz tweeted.

Documents obtained through an open-records request illustrate law enforcement's response to demonstrators and the reasoning behind the three arrests made that evening.

Kalin Gerrish, 26, was detained and given a summons to appear in county court after allegedly shining a laser in a police officer's face. For the alleged offense, Gerrish was charged with obstructing a police officer, a Class 2 misdemeanor. Gerrish declines to say whether he actually pointed the laser in an officer's face, but notes that the officer in question was filming the protesters with a video camera.

Colin McIntosh, 23, found himself on police radar because he was hitting a large bass drum during the protest.

"Lieutenant Amsler observed a male...beating a drum in a manner to create an unreasonable and annoying noise in a residential neighborhood after 2000 hours," the arrest affidavit for McIntosh notes.

In the affidavit, APD officer Eric Dunston wrote that Lieutenant Chris Amsler "gave several verbal warnings to the protesters at 2000 hours to disperse and leave the neighborhood. Lieutenant Amsler heard McIntosh continuing to beat the drums after that lawful order." McIntosh says he never heard such a warning.

After the protest ended, McIntosh returned to his car with a friend, Sidney Farber, and began pulling out of the parking lot where the demonstrators had originally gathered.

"As soon as I started trying to drive away, they started yelling and flashing lights to pull over," McIntosh says.

Police then asked McIntosh for his ID. According to the police report, McIntosh refused to provide his ID and to exit his vehicle when prompted. A police officer then reached into the vehicle and "placed his hand on McIntosh's hand to physically remove McIntosh from the vehicle and McIntosh pulled away" from the officer.

McIntosh was removed from the vehicle and arrested for resisting arrest and also given a summons for disorderly conduct in relation to his loud drumming after hours. McIntosh says that his wrist was sprained while he was being detained. Farber was also arrested and later released on a summons for disorderly conduct, which police attribute to the whistle he blew at the protest.

Farber says he thinks the police didn't know why they were arresting him. "They just snagged me as a passenger of the other guy," Farber says. "I was not the only person blowing a whistle."

APD declined to answer questions about the laws McIntosh and Farber broke. "This is an active case being prosecuted by the 18th DA Office. You should reach out to them for clarification regarding the charges," the media-relations unit wrote Westword in an email.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office wrote to Westword in an email that only Farber's charge, listed as "Disorderly Conduct-unreasonable noise," has appeared in the court database, explaining that McIntosh and Gerrish's charges might not be in the system because their information hasn't been entered.

According to Colorado law, someone can be charged with disorderly conduct, which is classified as a petty offense, if they "make unreasonable noise in a public place or near a private residence that he has no right to occupy." Resisting arrest, on the other hand, is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

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Gerrish thinks that he and the others who were arrested fell victim to law enforcement who were trying to make a statement that evening.

"I’m under the impression that they just wanted to make an example out of a couple people and just annoy us," he says.

In July, following a large anti-ICE protest during which a handful of demonstrators removed the American flag above the immigrant detention facility and replaced it with a Mexican one and anti-cop flags, APD issued a summons for one person allegedly involved in the incident. But that summons was for municipal court, not county court, which is where all three of those arrested at the September 19 protest will have to show up in November. County court focuses on violations of state law, whereas municipal court adjudicates possible violations of local law.

Activists say protests in Aurora over the controversial immigrant detention facility won't stop anytime soon. But Metz isn't likely to be involved in law enforcement's response to them: On September 27, the chief announced he was retiring at the end of the year.

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