There's a Bank Robber in One of 19 Cars in the Intersection: What Would You Do?

There's a bank robber in one of 19 cars at an intersection in Aurora, Colorado. Problem was, the police didn't know exactly which car. So they did something a bit unusual:

Police said they had received what they called a “reliable” tip that the culprit in an armed robbery at a Wells Fargo bank committed earlier was stopped at the red light.

“We didn’t have a description, didn’t know race or gender or anything, so a split-second decision was made to stop all the cars at that intersection, and search for the armed robber,” Aurora police Officer Frank Fania told ABC News.

Officers barricaded the area, halting 19 cars. [...] From there, the police went from car to car, removing the passengers and handcuffing the adults.

“Most of the adults were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car,” Fania said. “They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed.”

Even though the police did catch the bank robber, people are now asking whether handcuffing everyone on the spot was a breach of civil rights.

What do you think? Did the police do the right thing? Was it a case of guilty until proven innocent? Or was it a lawful investigative detention?

Erin McLaughlin of ABC News has the report: Link [auto-playing video]


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I don't think this passes the litmus test for probable cause. What if next time police get a "reliable" tip that a criminal is inside a place of business. Do the police then have the right to handcuff everyone in there and question them or search their person and possessions?

Slippery slope and all...
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Exactly how many people and/or how much area exceeds the limit of reasonableness? Here we have 19 cars in an intersection. What if we knew he was on a particular section of street? An apartment building or trailer park? A city block? A small town? If it's ok to detain a majority of people known to be innocent, at what point does it stop being ok to detain everyone? If they're going to continue to do this, those questions must be answered.
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And remember, the cops had no idea what the suspect even looked like. At least 18 lawsuits could be filed, but you know the suspect's defense attorney will spend his first ten minutes on the job drafting the motion to exclude.
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In this particular case, 19 people is hardly out of order and considering how tolerant society has become of assassinating police, I'm not having an issue with how this search was conducted. So they were briefly inconvenienced, they were first asked for permission to search, which apparently they all granted, and for their safety and that of the police busy searching, they had to wear metal bracelets for a little while. No fun, but if it saves lives by preventing someone from grabbing a gun, big whoop. Don't blame the police, blame the robbers who created the entire incident.
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Illegal as all hell. I think all 19 should file suit. Letting them get away with this sets a precedent that will not be good. Just as pointed out, what if it were a business or block. Hell what if it were a grocery store or concert? Should they barricade a stadium and search all 50k people? This is an immature and ill thought out use of power.
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