Authorities in Aurora, Colorado, said police officers were trapped inside the city’s District 1 station for nearly seven hours during Black Lives Matter protests and riots.
“The unfortunate part is they trapped our officers inside, not just them being around the building, but physically wrapping ropes and other items around the doors of the district one station, around the entry exit gates our patrol cars come out of .. that was probably the most dangerous part,” Aurora Police Department spokesperson Matthew Longshore told KDVR.
It’s not clear how many officers were trapped in the building.
Officers moved in early in the morning at 3:30 a.m. before dispersing the crowd.
“There wasn’t a rush to come in move people out. The officers were safe inside. We wanted to give the people the ability to express their First Amendment right, to protest, peacefully assemble and make their voices heard, so we didn’t have an immediate rush to go in and clear people out. Waiting a little bit longer, the crowd size became smaller, so we had an advantage,” Longshore said.
Longshore added that police found “gas cans full of gasoline that were staged in that immediate area.”
Officers didn’t use force on the individuals until force was used on them.
“They were starting to take the big mortar style type fireworks while they were trying to untie the gates so officers could come and go, they started throwing fireworks at them. Not only that, someone had a fire extinguisher, they were spraying our officers with a fire extinguisher. We didn’t use any force until they started doing it to us, that’s when we used 40 millimeter foam rounds, no pepper spray or tear gas or smoke,” Longshore said.
Reports had said that demonstrators were angry over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who died in police custody last year.
Last month, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order directing state Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate and possibly prosecute the three white officers previously cleared in McClain’s death.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
The interim police chief of the city of Aurora, Vanessa Wilson, announced the internal police investigation into the photos Monday night. In a statement, she said the suspended officers were “depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died.” She did not provide more details about what the images show or how many officers were on leave.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.