A Call for Justice from the Aurora Community

On Monday, July 24th, the Denver Justice Project (DJP) stood alongside a united community at the Aurora Municipal Center, rallying and attending a city council meeting to demand justice for Kilyn Lewis. Lewis, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by Aurora Police Officer Michael Dieck. Recently released body-cam footage reveals a disturbing scene: Aurora Police Department (APD) SWAT members, in unmarked vehicles, surrounded Lewis, bombarding him with multiple commands. Only eight seconds into the encounter, with his hands raised and a phone in one hand, Lewis was shot by Dieck, the sole officer to fire his weapon.

The City of Aurora’s Mayor Coffman attempted to limit public comment to one hour, despite City Council Member Crystal Murillo’s clarification that no such time limit exists. Coffman’s dismissive behavior—smirking and laughing as community members voiced their concerns—was a stark contrast to the earnest pleas for justice from the audience. The atmosphere in the chamber and the concerns from the community reveal that since Elijah McClain was murdered in 2019, little has changed regarding the threat APD poses to the Black community. Last year, Jor’Dell Richardson, a 14-year-old Black boy, was also killed by APD with no accountability for the officers involved. Now, the community faces the heartbreak of yet another unarmed Black man killed by police.

Community activist Auontai Anderson highlighted the disparity in APD’s response: white mass shooters are arrested without harm, while unarmed Black individuals face lethal force. He specifically referenced the Aurora theater shooter, who murdered 12 innocent people just down the street from the municipal building and was arrested without incident. This obvious racial bias erodes public trust and undermines safety in Aurora, pushing the community to a breaking point.

Another community activist raised a point regarding an ongoing issue in Aurora of civilians impersonating officers and conducting unofficial stops. In a statement from APD, “If you aren’t sure if the stop is legitimate, you can call 911, tell them your location and confirm this is an official traffic stop.” Kilyn Lewis was barraged by unmarked vehicles, and was shot and killed for grabbing his cell phone.

Mayor Coffman eventually called a recess as chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Say His Name, Kilyn Lewis” filled the chamber following the vote not to extend the time for public invited to be heard beyond the allotted one hour. Ward 1 Councilwoman Crystal Murillo pushed back at Mayor Coffman saying that a couple years ago, it was this Council that made the change to cap public invited to be heard at one hour, which prior to that had been unprecedented. Councilwoman at-large Alison Coombs pushed back as well, saying “they’re here now,” affirming the community’s right to speak directly to those who represent them, despite a majority of Council’s consistent efforts to deny them. Mayor Coffman responded saying “they’ll be back in two weeks,” insinuating that this is a conversation that can wait and that Kilyn Lewis’s death and APD’s ongoing practice of murdering unarmed Black men is not an issue that is time-sensitive whatsoever. 

It feels as if being ineffective and unproductive is Aurora’s standard response to the murder of Black men by their police department. The murder of Elijah McClain led to a patterns and practices investigation by Attorney General Phil Weiser, revealing APD’s racially biased policing. This investigation spurred the solicitation for an independent monitor to oversee the reforms, training, and oversight of a Consent Decree. Despite these measures, the Consent Decree’s five-year agreement, starting in February 2022, has not curbed the racist policing that continues to claim Black lives.

The community’s palpable anger and the unhealed trust were evident at the meeting. The Mayor’s and the majority of the City Council’s attempts to stifle public comment illustrate the enduring resistance to meaningful change. Following the recess called by Mayor Coffman, the Council decided to vote again to extend the time by 30 minutes in order to allow the 9 remaining speakers that had signed up to speak the ability to do so. Several council members, including some who initially opposed, agreed to extend public comment by 30 minutes, but Councilwoman Bergan stressed their agenda’s importance, excluding the police killing of Kilyn Lewis.

Witnessing their unwillingness to listen and to hear was disheartening. The community is hurting and exhausted, demanding the arrest and charging of Michael Dieck for the murder of Kilyn Lewis. DJP will continue to stand with the community, returning in two weeks for the next city council meeting or until justice is served. Black lives more than matter—they demand action. 

All power to the people.