Newly released body camera footage shows Aurora, Colorado, police forcing 44-year-old Teddy Pittman to the ground at gunpoint after mistaking him for a fugitive. After searching the terrified Pitman and his car, the cops eventually let him go—but not without giving him a ticket for driving with a suspended license and making a bad turn.
“I was shocked,” Pittman told 9News, a local news station. “I was just minding my own business.”
The incident occurred in April 2020. According to a lawsuit Pittman has filed against the officers, he left a friend’s house on the afternoon of April 24 when the FBI Rocky Mountian Safe Streets Task Force began following him. The task force is a group designed to track down violent fugitives and is comprised of Aurora and Denver police officers as well as FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.
A few miles later, one of the task force vehicles pulled Pittman over, when he complied, Pittman says that the officers approached his car with their weapons drawn and ordered him to exit his vehicle with his hands visible.
Body camera footage shows officers ordering Pittman to lie facedown in the road. Over the next several minutes, the officers patted Pittman down and searched his car. One officer even falsely claimed Pittman had a gun in his car.
After seizing Pittman’s wallet and checking his driver’s license, the officers realized that Pittman wasn’t the fugitive they were looking for and that there were no warrants out for his arrest. But the officers kept searching Pittman’s car for guns and drugs.
“It’s not our target….It’s not our guy,” one of the officers says near the end of the video. “Push it as far as you want or don’t want.”
After coming up empty-handed, the task force let Pittman go—but not without slapping him with a traffic ticket for driving with a suspended license and making a faulty left turn. A judge eventually dismissed the ticket.
This is far from the first time Aurora police have made this kind of mistake. An almost identical case occurred in 2020 when police forced a family—including a 6-year-old girl—to lie facedown on the pavement at gunpoint after officers mistook their car for a stolen vehicle. In addition, multiple reports on the Aurora Police Department revealed extensive misconduct and constitutional violations.
According to one 2021 report, after Aurora police killed 23-year-old Elijah McClain, racial profiling is a major issue in the city’s police department. “Aurora Police used force against 1.5% of Black subjects who had at least one interaction with police from 2018 to 2021,” the report read. “That is nearly double the corresponding figure for white subjects. Racial differences in arrest rates…cannot explain the use-of-force disparity, at least as to Black individuals.”