AURORA | A shootout Wednesday night among Aurora police and suspected car thieves left a trail of bullet-ridden police cars, an all-night manhunt but no gunfire injuries, at least among police.
Now, police are offering a $10,000 reward — funded by Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and the Aurora Police Foundation — for information leading to a suspect.
“We in the police department are tremendously relieved this morning that none of our officers were seriously injured last night,” interim police chief Dan Oates said during a news conference Thursday. “But I will tell you this: we are also very angry about what happened last night. … This person tried to murder Aurora police officers who are out there protecting all of us, and we want him.”
The incident began at about 9:45 p.m. when officers with Aurora’s Direct Action Response Team began following what they believed to be a stolen Kia sedan in northwest Aurora, police said in a statement and on Thursday.
“The Kia pulled into a shopping center parking lot at East Sixth Avenue and Peoria Street, occupied by at least two suspects,” Aurora police Agent Matthew Longshore said in a release.
“The Kia stopped in the parking lot, and one or more persons in the vehicle, unprovoked, began firing multiple rounds at two officers in an unmarked police car,” Longshore said. “These officers returned fire.”
Oates described the incident as a “gun battle” between police and the suspects, whose car was hit by another police vehicle as they tried to speed out of the parking lot.
A total of four police vehicles were struck by gunfire, Oates said. Five officers fired shots at the suspects, and it was unclear whether any of the suspects were shot. None of the officers were hit, though one was checked at the hospital for possible eye and hand injuries and released.
Oates said police found the suspect vehicle (containing two firearms) crashed into another vehicle and abandoned near 10th Avenue and Lima Street. Officers then set up a perimeter and notified nearby residents to shelter in place using reverse 911 technology.
Oates said one 16-year-old boy was located in a field not far from Central High School, dressed inappropriately for the weather and wearing a non-functioning ankle monitor. He was arrested on open failure-to-appear warrants for motor vehicle theft and possession of a weapon but has not been charged in connection with the incident, Oates said.
The Aurora SWAT team and canine units conducted a search of the area through the night but no other arrests were announced, and Oates said police are calling on the community’s help to find the suspect or suspects, at least one of whom is believed to be a male with a leg injury, likely to their right leg, and who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt at the time.
Oates said six officers have been placed on leave, including the five who fired shots and the driver of the police car that hit the suspect vehicle, while the incident is investigated by the 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team. However, Oates said he was aware of “no evidence to indicate that any of these officers at this time violated department policy.”
“Everything I know about this event at this time (shows) that our officers acted courageously and in the face of a deadly threat,” he said.
When asked whether investigators believed the officers involved had been targeted because of their jobs, Oates said they would not know until they arrested a suspect.
Police are asking residents in the area to check outdoor security cameras, especially for recordings made between 9:45 p.m. and 11 p.m., as well as their backyards for any suspicious findings.
While local roads were reopened Thursday morning, the shopping center at the King Soopers at East Sixth Avenue and Peoria Street remained closed into Thursday as police continue their investigation.