The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado announced last week, a $285,000 settlement on behalf of Jamie Alberto Torres Soto, a Latino man who was illegally ordered out of his home and unjustifiably beaten by Aurora Police officers who were called to investigate a noise complaint. The lawsuit detailed not only a vicious attack on Mr. Torres but a widespread pattern of racially biased policing in Aurora, Colorado, with little accountability.
“While the size of Mr. Torres’ settlement suggests the significance of the wrongdoing in this case, it does not begin to serve justice,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said. “To this day, Mr. Torres suffers physically and emotionally from that incident, and racialized police violence in Aurora has continued unabated. David Baker, The Gilliam Family, Elijah McClain and many more people of color have all been harmed at the hands of Aurora Police.”
“To this day, Mr. Torres suffers physically and emotionally from that incident, and racialized police violence in Aurora has continued unabated.”
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado
The lawsuit alleged that officers illegally ordered Mr. Torres to exit his own garage, and subsequently brutalized him when he delayed leaving and waited for his wife to arrive in order to translate. When threatened with arrest, Mr. Torres complied with the illegal order and exited his garage. Nonetheless, Aurora officers immediately placed Mr. Torres in a painful twist lock and slammed him to the ground, while Mr. Torres screamed in pain. Also recognized in the lawsuit was Aurora PD’s attempt to cover up their unconstitutional behavior by charging Mr. Torres for resisting arrest. Their claims proved unfounded by video evidence, and a jury acquitted Mr. Torres of those charges.
Racially biased policing is a long-standing and common event in Aurora. The city ranks 8th out of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. for police killings per capita, and the Aurora Police Department kills Black people at four times the rate of white people. Aurora Police have used pepper spray, police dogs, Tasers and other weapons and force against Black and Latino people disproportionately to white people despite data showing that people of color in Aurora are no more likely to injure police than white people during an arrest. The ACLU complaint identified 13 incidents in which Aurora police have subjected people of color to unjustified violence, brutality, detention, and arrest even in cases when the victim was only suspected of a minor infraction.
“What happened to Mr. Torres is emblematic of what happens to People of Color time and again in Aurora,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP. “Mr. Torres was abused by Aurora police when he was beaten and again when they tried to silence him and cover up their wrong-doing. In order to address the Aurora PD’s epidemic of violence against communities of color we must continue to hold them accountable.”
The ACLU of Colorado legal team includes Mark Silverstein, Rebecca Wallace, and ACLU cooperating attorneys Mari Newman and Andrew McNulty of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP.
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