File — Denver Police Department officers clear a man who fell to the street after they used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, in this file photograph taken Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Denver. A civil lawsuit accusing Denver Police of using indiscriminate force against people protesting the killing of Floyd is set to go on trial in federal court Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
File — Tear gas fills the air after Denver Police fired canisters during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd, in this file photograph taken on Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Denver. A civil lawsuit accusing the Denver Police Department of using indiscriminate force against people protesting the killing of George Floyd is set to go on trial Monday, March 7, 2022, in federal court. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

AURORA | The City of Aurora is suing Denver over which municipality should be responsible for paying settlement claims from lawsuits regarding police brutality during protests that took place in the summer of 2020.

Multiple cities, including Aurora, sent police officers to Denver that summer to assist with protests against racism and police brutality that developed nationwide following the death of George Floyd. 

A number of protestors filed suit against Denver alleging that their rights were violated by police who behaved aggressively toward them. The most significant judgment to date ruled that the city owed $14 million to a group of protestors, including current state Rep. Elisabeth Epps, who were injured by police.

In a lawsuit filed May 12 in Denver district court, the City of Aurora asks a judge to rule that it is not liable for any of the claims. 

“Aurora has repeatedly asked Denver to confirm that it will indemnify Aurora or otherwise assume responsibility for these claims as required by state law and the parties’ longstanding practice and agreement,” the lawsuit said. “Denver has refused, and so Aurora now seeks a declaration establishing that Denver does in fact have that obligation.”

The lawsuit states that following the start of protests in May 2020, the Denver Police Department asked for assistance from surrounding law enforcement agencies, as is common during large-scale events.

Aurora sent Aurora Police Department officers and members of its Emergency Response Team to Denver with the understanding that “Denver would indemnify Aurora or otherwise assume responsibility for any claims arising out of the provision of this aid,” the lawsuit said.

Since then, the lawsuit said that Denver has refused to acknowledge this, which is impairing Aurora’s ability to negotiate settlements.

A joint statement prepared by representatives from both cities said that Denver and Aurora disagree on who is responsible for covering the costs but are still committed to working together.

“Aurora and Denver disagree on which municipality should cover costs associated with legal challenges to the Aurora Police Department’s involvement in the George Floyd protests that occurred in downtown Denver in May 2020,” the statement said. 

“Aurora is seeking a declaration from the Denver District Court that state statute, C.R.S. §§ 29-5-104 and 108, requires Denver to indemnify Aurora. Denver does not believe it is legally required to pay for claims against Aurora and its police officers. While Aurora and Denver argue their respective positions in court, they will continue to work together outside court toward a safer metropolitan community.”

The two cities partner on a number of issues, including how to address rising youth violence and other crime-related matters. At last week’s city council meeting outgoing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was honored with a proclamation from Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman.

Aurora has already paid out a significant amount of money over the past several years in police misconduct settlements, including a record $15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Elijah McClain. 

On Thursday, 9News reported that eight APD officers have been named in an excessive force lawsuit filed on behalf of Preston Nunn regarding a 2021 traffic stop.

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