Tonight on AC360: Did police go too far?
September 21st, 2012
06:24 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: Did police go too far?

When an armed bank robber struck a Wells Fargo branch in Aurora, Colorado, police took extraordinary and controversial steps to find the suspect.

They pulled over 19 cars at an intersection and ordered everyone out of them at gunpoint, even children.

"I had my hands up, they had rifles and guns and everything pointed at me with shields and a canine dog," 16-year-old Michael Hance told CNN's Ted Rowlands about the June incident.

Nearly everyone was then handcuffed and treated as an armed and dangerous suspect.

They did this because the stolen money bag with $25,000 had a GPS device hidden inside and it showed the bank robbery suspect was at the intersection.

But they didn't know what he looked like because the suspect wore a beehive mask during the robbery.

Eventually they searched an SUV and found the mask, the money, two loaded guns and the suspect. Christian Paetsch, 45, a school teacher has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

And now all the evidence in the case could be thrown out by a judge. Find out why tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. ET and see what police are saying about their actions.

UPDATE. Watch Ted Rowlands' report:

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Ted Rowlands
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Bill S.

    Come on, folks, they had rich people's money to recover. You don't get to keep your job as a security officer for the 1% by *not* pointing guns at innocent women and children. Think! Jeeze.

    September 26, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  2. Ray B

    I'm so glad to live in a police state where guns are pointed at my children simply because we drove through the wrong intersection at the wrong time. God bless America.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  3. John P

    That gps tracker should also have an explosive dye pack that police set off by remote control. Gps gets you to the vicinity, and then the dye pack answers the question.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:43 am |
  4. Tim

    The police should have removed the people from the danger, not trapped them all next to a man with a gun. If he opened fire, the rest were sitting ducks.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  5. Fedleo

    The police acted "technically" correct in this instance in that this is how you normally would conduct a "felony stop" on a potential armed and dangerous person. The suspect was well disguised and really could have been anyone (teenager, female, etc) so that made everybody who was a certain height and weight a potential suspect. Where they went wrong (having just the facts that were displayed in this report) was that they were detaining people in restraints for a long period of time, and that they pointed loaded weapons at the people. They were correct as far as normal police procedure in responding to this situation but they probably should have used a little more restraint in who and how they targeted their subjects. In our agency we would have got everybody out of the cars one by one (possibly at gunpoint depending on the individual circumstances), patted down (frisked) everybody for weapons, and had them sit in a controlled area. But each agency does things a little differently. In the end "officer safety" trumps the convenience of the public. Sorry folks but that just is the way it has to be in this profession. It is interesting to note though that the prime suspect is a 45 year-old school teacher with no criminal record. A couple of things the public doesn't understand is that suspects don't always look like "bad guys" and that there is almost nobody more dangerous to police than bank robbery suspects. Probably the only other criminal that is more dangerous is an escaped convicted murderer (when cornered). They will usually want to shoot it out with the police rather than surrender. In the end, the suspect was caught, nobody was physically harmed, and the public is safe.

    September 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Lou

      The issue will boil down to probable cause. If a court finds that the presence of a GPS signal indicating the suspect was in the vicinity was probable cause to search and detain everyone in the vicinity then the prosecution will win. I, however, do not think that a GPS signal constitutes probable cause, but this is a really thorny issue that will keep cropping up until the supreme court issues a ruling.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  6. Phillip

    I think the commanding officer at the scene should be terminated w/o pay or any sort of severance. As for the other officers, they should be suspended or disciplined. Yes, I understand he was suspect for a felony, however being that it was an armed robbery, it can be assumed that he was armed and dangerous. If there was a gps tracker in the money, the authorities could have stopped him in a less populated area than a busy intersection. Just imagine if he opened fire....

    September 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  7. jane

    If we want the police to do their job effectively we have to stop all the whining and weeping and woe is me nonsense.
    It is a fact that each of us may find ourselves in a difficult situation at some time but basicly, stay calm, be patient and allow the police to protect the public at large.

    September 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  8. Kulafu Kidd

    The answer to the question "Did the Police inconvenience the public for searching all those vehicles in Colorado bank robbery" is No. The question can irritate a law abiding citizen and can bring delight & merely serve the people who breaks the law.

    September 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  9. Diane Treider

    They went beyond putting a gun in their faces. These people were handcuffed for over 2 hours, their children were terrorized, and they were sitting on the concrete in that condition. You would just sit there for two hours on concrete because you didn't do anything and just take it? This was too far. They didn't have to handcuff these people. I get sweeping the traffic, but there was definitely a better way to handle the people pulled out who obviously were not the person they were looking for.

    September 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Nieves

      Who to be afraid..robs or cops!

      September 22, 2012 at 2:57 am |
  10. Adam

    sometimes you have to take it too far to get results, this man had two loaded guns and 25 grand, i think they did they're job perfectly, and the law needs to be changed so stuff like this doesnt get thrown out in court. as for the innocent people, yea having a gun in your face sucks, but you dont have to be worried if you didnt do anything

    September 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm |