Aurora cop disciplined after forcing Black girls to lie face down on pavement running for Las Animas County sheriff

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Screen grab from a video taken by bystander Jennifer Wurtz depicting Aurora police wrongfully arresting a family with children.

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. 

 

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J Baigent
J Baigent
3 months ago

This is so obviously a hit piece intended only to hurt Dasko’s election chances. I am sure there would be no mention if Dasko was a Democrat. I don’t know the man, but the facts as outlined above can certainly be understood as an honest mistake while trying to dutifully carry out the officer’s obligations. Are you aware that a 13 year old killed an Uber Eats driver while high jacking her car? Unfortunately more and more young people are engaging in criminal behavior and becoming violent, and officers have to always be vigilant for this. And aren’t you the ones that always tout second chances, even for convicted felons? I guess a well meaning cop who makes an honest mistake doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt from you- and it sure shows your bias and hypocrisy.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  J Baigent

I didn’t read this into the article at all. Some people’s viewpoints taint everything as they go through life making everything political.

Nelson Kerr
Nelson Kerr
3 months ago
Reply to  J Baigent

He abused a family fer an extended period of time, becasue he did not nother to evern check the basic details, IF he had paid attention to what kind of vehicle was stolen, or even what state the plates were from there would have been no stop at all, Just a thugh s who saw a target to abuse.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
3 months ago

Well if doing stupid things even if they didn’t seem stupid while doing them means you should not run for political office, well that logic itself sounds pretty stupid. People are humans and hopefully learn from their mistakes. This police officer may or may not be the best choice for sheriff but it’s certainly not up to Aurora to decide.
As an aside don’t you wish you had a nickel for everything your political hero did that was stupid…

Nelson Kerr
Nelson Kerr
3 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

You are confusing maliciousness and or callousness with stupidity. they are not th same thing

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

Cops need to remember for whom they work and treat people with a little-more respect, because they are just that–people–even if suspected of a crime. Today, too many cops want to play the role of judge, jury and executioner. But we are onto them, and this BS hopefully will go away as older cops retire.

The motto is still “Serve and protect,” I think. I can understand how hard it must be to deal with all people, including the dregs of society. But cops must rise above personal prejudices (not just racial ones), as we hold them to a higher standard. Well, at least we used to.

vern
vern
3 months ago

It would seem that this is no news news by a biased paper. First why say what color the girls were- it shouldn’t matter I would be upset red, black, yellow, brown or white…. until the facts are know. If my police intelligence says the car is stolen, it is not the pd’s officers fault. What should they do… let it go? It is a problem, and embarrassment for the department (and should be used to improve the system)- not the man. I applaud anyone that wants to work in law enforcement (would you?) Let alone work as the head and have all the headaches of every criminal and camera ready person just looking for even the most small of situations – to sue the police or de-fund the police. When your car is stolen call a drug dealer as they are easier to find than a cop being allowed to do their job. So I wish him the best, I would vote for him if I was in that county. And I agree there is no concern of Aurora about a distant county election.

Nelson Kerr
Nelson Kerr
3 months ago
Reply to  vern

It was a different kind of vehicle with plates form a different state, It took real effort to be that incompetent either that or intent,

Nelson Kerr
Nelson Kerr
3 months ago

What party the badged thug is running under was a given

Larry
Larry
3 months ago
Reply to  Nelson Kerr

What is it ever even in question lol we all know if someone is hateful and ignorant they’re running as a republican.