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Aurora refuses to release internal affairs file after firing officer

AURORA, Colo. -- Despite a legal settlement to be more transparent about its police internal affairs files, a FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation has found the city of Aurora is still reluctant to share the same information the Denver Police Department routinely gives the media.

Aurora fired Lt. Leland Silver on Feb. 28, but the department does not want to share details as to why it terminated the 15-year veteran of the department.

The Problem Solvers made a public records request for Silver's internal affairs files in April because of a settlement the city agreed to went into effect on April 30.

Aurora police officer John Gonzales

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Kevin Ravenscroft, Jamie Salazar and Nicolas Torres after police entered their house without a search warrant  on June 23, 2016. Officers handcuffed Ravenscroft and another man in a case of mistaken identity.

Aurora settled the case for $150,000 and promised to "revise its policies regarding the disclosure of internal affairs files" after the city initially refused to provide the internal affairs file of officer John Gonzales.

It was Gonzales who handcuffed Ravenscroft after telling him he had a search warrant when he did not.

Police had been dispatched to a report of an intoxicated person possibly abusing children, but officers showed up at the wrong house.

Even after it was apparent there were no children at the Ravenscoft home or any crimes taking place, it took police several minutes to realize their mistake and release the two men they had placed in handcuffs.

The city agreed to settle the case soon after learning FOX31 would be appearing at a court hearing, where a judge was going to rule on whether Aurora should be forced to turn over Gonzales' internal affairs file.

Civil rights attorney Mari Newman

Civil rights attorney Mari Newman reached the settlement with the city.

"It wasn't about money. It was about causing Aurora to change its broken polices, to treat people better and to be more transparent," said Newman, who negotiated Aurora's promise to revise its policy on accessing internal affairs files.

Her legal victory is what encouraged the Problem Solvers to ask about Silver.

"The public has a right to know. What does it take for Aurora to fire an officer?" Newman asked.

Lt. Leland Silver

Police suspended Silver in July 2017 after Arapahoe County prosecutors charged him with official misconduct.

His case has been sealed, but the Problem Solvers have learned Silver is accused of accessing a police computer database to allegedly help his then-girlfriend, who apparently had legal issues.

His trial on the official misconduct charge is scheduled to begin July 25.

While Silver was on suspension, he was arrested by Denver police on Oct. 15 for driving under the influence after officers found him passed out in his car at a stoplight on Colfax Avenue.

Body camera footage from Denver's Department of Public Safety shows officers removing a semiautomatic rifle from his truck after Silver told officers, "I do have a weapon in my car. I am employed by the Aurora Police Department, just so you know."

In January, Silver pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired and was sentenced to 12 months probation, 24 hours of community service and $1,259.50 in fines.

Lt. Leland Silver

On Feb. 28, Silver was terminated. However, the agency has refused to share his internal affairs file.

In a May 2 email, the city of Aurora claimed it does not have to provide Silver's disciplinary letter or the findings of its internal affairs investigation because, "Lt. Silver has chosen to exercise his appeal rights regarding his termination."

But that is a different stance from the city of Denver, which provides internal affairs discipline letters regardless of whether an officer is appealing a punishment.

Newman said she thinks Aurora is violating the spirit of the settlement the city signed with her.

Aurora police officer John Gonzales

"The entire point of the settlement was that Aurora was supposed to be more transparent and supposed to change its bad ways, and it's decided not to do that," Newman said.

Police insist they are not violating the spirit of the new settlement, but refused to speak about the issue.

Gonzales was later given a 20-hour suspension for barging into the wrong home without a search warrant.

Silver declined comment.

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