AURORA | An Aurora police officer who ordered several young Black girls to lay prone in an Aurora parking lot after erroneously accusing them of being in a stolen car last summer has declared his intent to become the next sheriff of Las Animas County in southern Colorado.
Aurora Officer Darian Dasko on July 1 filed his affidavit with the Colorado Secretary of State declaring his candidacy to be the top cop for the county of about 14,000 people.
Dasko drew criticism last August when he and fellow Aurora Police Officer Madisen Moen ordered Brittney Gilliam and the passengers of her blue Dodge SUV — four girls ages 6, 12, 14 and 17 — to lie face down in a parking lot near South Chambers Road and East Iliff Avenue as they handcuffed several of them. Other officers eventually arrived to the scene with at least one unholstered handgun and two Tasers as investigators attempted to discern whether Gilliam’s car was stolen.
Police at the scene and at department headquarters eventually determined that a license plate reader had mistakenly listed Gilliam’s car as stolen. In the days after the incident, Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said the readers only search by plate numbers — not by state or vehicle make and model.
Gilliam’s plate shared the same numbers as a motorcycle registered in Montana that had been reported stolen in the area. Officers did not cross reference Gilliam’s plate in a national database, which would have shown that her vehicle did not match the registered state or make of the stolen bike in question.
In January, district attorneys in Arapahoe County determined they did not have enough evidence to convict Moen or Dasko at trial.
“There is insufficient evidence to support the filing of any criminal charges against Officers (Darian) Dasko and (Madisen) Moen,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Clinton McKinzie wrote in a nine-page letter to Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. “The evidence that exists would not support a reasonable likelihood of a criminal conviction at trial.”
A consultant tasked by McKinzie to review the incident also determined police followed their training protocols, but urged the department to amend its current procedures.
“All of the officers involved in the incident acted in a professional, safe, and respectful manner in all their interactions with the driver and the other occupants of the vehicle during the encounter,” Paul Taylor, a former police officer and associate professor of criminology at the University of Colorado Denver wrote in his analysis. “The officers’ actions were consistent with the high-risk stop training they had received … I would highly recommend that the Aurora Police Department change the high-risk vehicle tactics that they train their officers to use.”
Dasko was suspended from his job for 160 hours as a result of the incident, according to Agent Matt Longshore, spokesperson for Aurora police. He was also stripped of his role as a field training officer.
Gilliam has since filed a lawsuit against Aurora police as a result of the incident.
Dasko, Republican, is currently the only candidate who has filed paperwork in the race, according to Secretary of State records.
Originally from Trinidad, Dasko previously worked as a sergeant with the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office. He has worked as an officer in Aurora since August 2018, according to Longshore. He is currently assigned to patrol.
Dasko could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts to contact him by phone and email.
The current sheriff in Las Animas County, Democrat Derek Navarette, won his first term to the post in an unopposed contest in 2018, records show. A representative for the sheriff’s office said Navarette, the former undersheriff in the area for more than a decade, plans to run again in the upcoming election.
A Facebook post detailing Dasko’s bid indicates he plans to formally declare his candidacy at a local dinner this weekend. The same post states that he plans to hire another former Aurora cop as his undersheriff if elected.
The election for the sheriff’s post around Trinidad will not take place until 2022.