Aurora, CO

Aurora residents swear at, threaten mayor after chief firing

David Heitz

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This man swore at the City Council Monday during public comment period.Aurora TV/YouTube

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) Residents angry over the firing of Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson blasted conservative members of the City Council Monday.

About 15 residents spoke in support of the chief during public comment. Two made threats and used profanity.

A man who said his name was Omen told Mayor Mike Coffman, "I'm coming for you personally."

Two weeks ago, the council considered having its meeting via Zoom due to perceived threats Omen posted on social media. Most council members attended the meeting in person, but council member Francoise Bergan attended remotely. She was absent Monday.

Omen called in his remarks about the camping ban two weeks ago after he learned the city considered getting a restraining order against him.

He told the council Aurora police spy on him, saying it's "almost dignifying that you're that afraid of me." He then defended the former chief. "I don't think the police chief ever violated my right to free speech."

Police department operates under consent decree

The Aurora Police Department operates under a court-ordered consent decree after the murder of suspect Elijah McClain in police custody.

Police put McClain into a chokehold. Paramedics injected him with the ketamine. He later died.

A previous City Council hired Wilson in 2020 to implement police reforms after Police Chief Nick Metz retired.

A woman named Missy told the council it set the city back several years by sending a message to the police department that its old ways are permissible. She said the council made firing the chief a game over politics "because you are beholden to the union president or whoever it is."

City Manager Jim Twombly fired the chief last week, saying he had lost confidence in her leadership ability. He admitted she was effective at community outreach when he announced her dismissal.

Missy said she "whispered quiet prayers of thanks" whenever Wilson fired an officer for police misconduct.

Man swears at City Council members

One man at the meeting approached the dais and began calling council members "pieces of sh*t." Acting Police Chief Chris Juul attended Monday's meeting. Nobody made the man sit down or stop swearing, but some people began to yell at him.

Gary Beasley said he attended the citizen police academy but wouldn't want any Aurora police job, including the chief position.

He wondered how much thought went into the decision to terminate her. "What did happen? How will we find out?" he asked the council, to no response.

"Chief Wilson deserves praise for her work," said resident Arnie Schultz.

Wilson speaks out

Earlier Monday, several people of color and others held a rally for Wilson outside City Hall. They said Aurora had become "the city of great divide" due to its conservative City Council. The speakers claimed the conservative council members, especially Danielle Jurinsky and Dustin Zvonek, pushed for Wilson's firing.

Jurinsky called Wilson "trash" during a conservative radio show a few weeks ago.

During Monday's rally, residents yelled, "We love you, chief."

Wilson responded she was honored to serve as police chief. But added, "The decision (to fire her) has been made."

She said that decision wasn't about her. "It's about having leaders who will stand up to the unions."

Wilson said that "when the police department does wrong, abuses individuals, lies on police reports and engages in criminal behavior," they "cannot and should not" be police officers.

"Leadership is not a popularity contest," Wilson said.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

Denver, CO
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