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Colorado Attorney General Probing 'Patterns And Practices' At Aurora Police Department

A still from a video of officers with the Aurora Police Department handcuffing a mother and her children after mistaking their car as a stolen vehicle on August 2.

One of the Mountain West's major police departments is under investigation after two serious incidents involving people of color. 

In a brief statement issued Tuesday, Colorado's office of the attorney general said it has been looking into the Aurora Police Department near Denver for several weeks now. 

"It has been investigating patterns and practices of the Aurora Police Department that might deprive individuals of their constitutional rights under state or federal law," the statement said. 

The state investigation comes a year after police put Elijah McClain, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man, in a chokehold. He was then sedated by medical responders, went into cardiac arrest and later died. 

McClain's family has filed a civil lawsuit against the department, the city and medical responders. The attorney general's office said it's conducting a separate investigation of the young man's death. 

The Aurora Police Department also came under fire recently after its officers handcuffed a mother and her children after mistaking their car as a stolen vehicle, prompting an apology from police chief Vanessa Wilson.

"It's just uncalled for. It shouldn't have happened, and I wish we could take it back," Wilson said during an interview with the television station Denver 7. "Just hearing those young children crying, it tears at your heart strings. I felt sick to my stomach."

There have been 49 fatal encounters with police in Aurora since the year 2000, according to Fatal Encounters, a database that attempts to document all deaths when police are present. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Nate Hegyi is a roving regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at Nevada Public Radio. You can reach him at natehegyi@protonmail.com.