Photos: Aurora cops illegally detained dozens while searching for bank robber, lawsuit claims

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The suit, which we've included below, notes that the cash stolen by Paetsch, who was sentenced to just over seven years behind bars for the crime back in April 2013, included a GPS transponder that signaled its general location to the Aurora Police Department. But attorney David Lane, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit, says the APD didn't have the proper equipment needed to zero in on the device's exact location.

"The FBI had the pinpoint locator," Lane notes, "but it was a Saturday, and when the Aurora police called, no one was home. So an on-duty agent had to drive for over an hour to get the pinpoint locator -- and when he finally arrived, he didn't know how to use it.

"At that point," he continues, "everybody had been detailed for over an hour. People were pulled out of their cars at gunpoint, including a fourteen-year-old child, who had a high-powered rifle pointed directly at his chest. And pointing weapons at children is never all right unless the child is armed or you have some compelling reason to believe the child is armed."

In addition, Lane points out that "they knew the robber was a man about five-feet-six-inches and 130 pounds, but they patted everybody down regardless of their physical description. And even after they were found not to have any weapons, they were still put into handcuffs and forced to sit on the curb for hours while their cars were searched. And this went on even after they identified the robber. They kept searching cars for possibly up to a half hour after they'd already gotten him."

Ultimately, everyone other than Paetsch was released, but Lane argues that many have had long-lasting effects as a result of the tactics. He highlights one plaintiff, Tim Olson. "Tim was taken out of his car at gunpoint and they officer told him roughly, 'Get on your knees.' Tim said, 'I just had surgery. I can't.' But they pushed him down on his knees anyway, and then they picked him up even after he'd told them he had a bad shoulder, too. There's a video of the police jerking him up by his shoulder. He's still in physical therapy for it all this time later -- and Tim didn't match the description of the robber at all. He's six-one and weighs 230 or 240 pounds."

Paetsch also complained about the search procedure; in a federal complaint, he moved to suppress evidence based on constitutional violations. This demand was rejected by government authorities, who stated that "the roadblock, although a 'seizure' of all of the individuals stopped, was constitutional because it had a proper purpose and was implemented in a reasonable manner, given the exigent circumstances under which the law enforcement personnel involved were operating." Continue for more about the Aurora search lawsuit, including additional photos from the scene, two documents and more.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts