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Denver-area cop who was suspended for wrongfully detaining Black family running for sheriff

Aurora black family detained
Posted at 12:35 PM, Jul 08, 2021

AURORA, Colo. — An Aurora police officer who was demoted and suspended for wrongfully detaining a Black family and holding children at gunpoint last summer wants to become the next sheriff of Las Animas County.

Darian Dasko submitted his application to run as a Republican for the Las Animas County Sheriff's seat on July 1. He is the first candidate to submit his application for the 2022 election.

Las Animas County, located about a four-hour drive from the Denver suburb of Aurora, is home to 14,000 people.

In August of 2020, Dasko pulled over a Black family in an SUV they believed was stolen after running the license plates. Officers pointed their guns at the family inside the SUV and ordered them out.

The driver, Brittney Gilliam, and four children, aged 6, 12, 14 and 17, were placed face-down on hot pavement in an Aurora parking lot. Officers handcuffed the 12-year-old and the 17-year-old.

Police later determined that the SUV had not been stolen.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson both condemned Dasko's actions.

"It's uncalled for, it shouldn't have happened, and I wish we can take it back," Wilson said after reviewing the video of the detainment.

Dr. Thomas Mayes, the vice president of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, called on Coffman to fire Dasko.

"It angers me that you would have someone in law enforcement that has poor judgment," Mayes said.

Mayes says he was appalled when he heard Dasko wanted to become a sheriff. He says the announcement sparks fears among Black people.

"Two fears: One, fear that they will have a person in charge that has poor judgment when it comes to people," Mayes said. "My second fear is that the people may elect him knowing that if that reflects the personality of Las Animas, then it's another place that we [Black people] don't want to go."

Dasko did not face charges over his actions during the traffic stop.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Clinton McKinzie with the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office wrote that the incident is concerning but added that there wasn't enough evidence to conclude Dasko and the other officer unlawfully or recklessly used excessive force in the detainment.

McKinzie also mentioned that the family inside the SUV did not commit any violation of the law.

Dasko is now a patrol officer. He started his career with the Aurora Police Department in 2018, and a spokesperson with the department confirmed that he does not have any previous warnings or disciplinary actions filed against him.

Gilliam, the driver of the SUV, filed a civil lawsuit for emotional trauma against Dasko. The case is pending.

Dasko did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story was originally published by Adi Guajardo on Scripps station KMGH in Denver.