Aurora leaders try to avert racial unrest after police shootings

Aurora officials convened a meeting of volunteers, police and the U.S. Department of Justice office that helps prevent racial tensions in the wake of recent officer-involved shootings in which at least two minorities were killed.

Barbara Shannon-Banister, chief of the city’s community-relations division, said her office has not heard reports of unrest from the community and that Monday’s meeting was standard procedure after a major incident such as an officer-involved shooting.

Among those in attendance were members of the city’s Key Community Response Team, a group of volunteers who meet regularly and respond in times of civil disorder, as well as the city’s human-relations commission and representatives of the local faith community.

Also participating was a representative of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, which is described on its website as the department’s “peacekeeper” for community conflict and tension arising from differences of race, color and national origin.

Shannon-Banister said the representative is a regular attendee of such meetings and a member of the Key Community Response Team.

Aurora officers have shot and killed four suspects since Feb. 10. The first two were Latino. Police and the coroner’s office have not released the identities of the two others killed in the most recent shootings.

Monday’s meeting was called to discuss Sunday’s incident, in which an officer shot at three men suspected of trying to steal a car in an auto-storage lot. One of the men died. The conditions of the two others were not available Tuesday.

Authorities are investigating whether one of the suspects involved hit the officer with a truck before he fired his gun.

Leon Kelly, executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Services and a member of the Key Community Response Team, said he is using the shootings as teachable moments.

“I’ve been telling the youngsters I work with, ‘Do not put yourself in that position,’ ” Kelly said.

In the Feb. 10 incident, an undercover officer shot and killed a man who was under surveillance for suspicion of selling drugs. Police said Richard Arreola, 25, was armed when he approached the officer’s car. They later found a long black rifle and a large revolver.

Two incidents last week involved men who had taken hostages. Daniel Garcia threatened a woman with a gun on March 14, then took her hostage in a car. He was killed after police heard gunfire from the vehicle.

Friday’s shooting occurred after a man took a family of four hostage for several hours, telling police he would “shoot it up” with them, according to police. The man, whom authorities have not identified, exited the apartment with a handgun.

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