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Judge: Aurora police justified in actions to find robber

The traffic stop triggered a barrage of criticism from motorists who said police blocked their cars while officers searched for the robber

By Alan Gathright 
The Denver Channel

AURORA, Colo. — A federal judge has ruled that Aurora police didn't violate the law when they stopped 25 cars, detaining dozens of drivers and passengers at gunpoint, until they caught a suspected bank robber in a SUV last June.

The June traffic stop at East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road triggered a barrage of criticism from innocent motorists who said police  blocked their cars while officers with shotguns and rifles went car-by-car, pulling out people at gunpoint and handcuffing them.

Authorities released this surveillance photo of the man suspected of robbing an Old Second Bank in Aurora. (FBI Image)
Authorities released this surveillance photo of the man suspected of robbing an Old Second Bank in Aurora. (FBI Image)

"Cops came in from every direction and just threw their car in front of my car," said Sonya Romero, who was one of the drivers handcuffed, told 7NEWS at the time. "We all got cuffed until they figured out who did what."

"We didn't know if we were in the line of fire or what the hell was happening," Romero said.

Eventually police came to a white Ford Expedition and arrested the suspected bank robber driver.

The other drivers were then released. The whole ordeal lasted about two hours.

The suspect, Christian Paetsch, was arrested on bank robbery charges during the traffic stop.

His defense lawyer argued that because the stop was unconstitutional, the bulk of the evidence against Paetsch -- including money stolen from the bank, a disguise and two pistols -- should be tossed, the Aurora Sentinel reported.

But in a 30-page ruling handed down Tuesday, United States District Court Judge William J. Martinez said that, while the stop was out of the ordinary, police acted appropriately.

Martinez said some statements Paetsch made to police about the guns in his car won't be allowed at trial because the officers improperly questioned him after he asked for a lawyer, the newspaper reported. But the guns themselves, which police found when they searched Paetsch's SUV, will be allowed as evidence.

Paetsch’s trial is scheduled for December.

Federal prosecutors said Paetsch, a former music teacher, robbed the Wells Fargo Bank at East Hampden Avenue and South Chambers Road a day after a banker there refused to renegotiate his loan.

Reprinted with permission from The Denver Channel. 

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