(CNN)Four children are traumatized days after officers in Aurora, Colorado, drew guns on them in a mix-up over a stolen vehicle, the woman driving the vehicle said.
The Black children who had guns drawn on them in a stolen vehicle mix-up are traumatized, the mother says
"They're barely eating. They're barely sleeping," Brittney Gilliam told CNN on Wednesday. "They're not doing good at all ... Who would? What kid would? What child would? What parent would?"
Brittney Gilliam was going to a nail salon Sunday with her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister and 14- and 17-year-old nieces when police drew their weapons on them. Gilliam said she, her sister and 17-year-old niece were handcuffed while police verified that the car Gilliam was driving was not stolen.
Gilliam and all four girls are Black.
Gilliam said her life flashed before her eyes and she worried that someone was going to get seriously hurt as officers ordered her family out of the car and onto the ground. And though the experience was traumatizing for her, too, she said the worst part was feeling like she couldn't protect the girls.
"As a parent, you try to protect your child at every cost, and those were my kids -- in that particular moment, those were my kids -- and I felt powerless, I felt dehumanized, and I couldn't protect them from anything that was going on," she said.
The episode unfolded amid a nationwide examination of how police treat Black people, spurred partly by the May death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Aurora police also have been under scrutiny for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who suffered a heart attack after police detained him.
"I have called (Gilliam's) family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday's events," newly appointed Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said late Monday. "I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover."
Gilliam was taking the girls to get their nails done the day of the incident, she told CNN. Her niece had just gotten back in the vehicle after looking to see whether the nail salon was open, and she and the girls were parked in a parking lot with the car turned off, Gilliam said, when Aurora police pulled up behind her vehicle with guns drawn and yelled for them to put their hands out of the window and to get out of the car.
Gilliam and the girls got out of the vehicle and were told to lie face down on the ground, she said. Though she asked more than once, Gilliam said the police wouldn't tell her why she was pulled over until she was handcuffed.