They were looking for a stolen Montana motorcycle — and found a Colorado SUV full of Black children.
Police in Colorado have apologized after a jaw-dropping video of a Black family being handcuffed at gunpoint began circulating online.
Aurora PD was trending high on Twitter on Tuesday alongside the distressing 90-second clip, which showed a Black woman, along with her children and nieces — one as young as six — spread on the tarmac with their hands pinned behind their backs, surrounded by a team of armed officers.
It later emerged the police believed their SUV was stolen — having confused it with a stolen motorbike.
The five female family members — four of whom are children, aged 17, 14, 12 and six — can be heard wailing in terror as the officers look on, eventually offering to help the driver, later identified as Brittney Gilliam, to sit up off the searing hot tarmac.
In a statement, police later apologized, saying they had received a report of a stolen vehicle at the thrift store parking lot.
This added to Gilliam's confusion; her car had been stolen back in February, but had been returned to her the next day.
It later emerged that the stolen vehicle the police were looking for was actually a motorcycle — with Montana plates — that just happened to have the same registration plate number as Gilliam's Colorado SUV.
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson's statement, however, only mentions a "vehicle with the same plate information".
"We want to offer our apologies to the family involved in the involving a police stop of their vehicle," (SIC) the statement reads.
Chief Wilson claimed the department has been training its officers to perform a "high risk stop" whenever they contact a suspected stolen car.
"This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground."
"But we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves," she admitted, adding she had already directed her team to look at new methods.
She said she called the family to apologize, "especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday's events."
She added that an internal investigation was underway.
Gilliam told 9News afterward that the Sunday ordeal had started out as a girls day out, as she took her daughter and nieces to get their nails done.
The store was closed, so they returned to the car; the next thing they knew they were surrounded by guns and being ordered to get face-first on the ground.
"There's no excuse why you didn't handle it a different type of way," Gilliam said. "You could have even told them 'step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.' There was different ways to handle it."
As for her 14-year-old niece Teriana Thomas, the apology didn't mean much.
"It's like they don't care," she said. "Who am I going to call when my life is in danger?"