Aurora police internal affairs failed to investigate previous complaints against arrested officers

Aurora police drop complaints against officers

AURORA, Colo. - Aurora Police internal affairs had received warnings about two of their officers years before the officers were arrested for sex crimes, but documents show police investigators did little to confirm the allegations until the officers' subsequent arrests, CALL7 Investigators found.

In September, CALL7 Investigators reported that APD internal affairs received a complaint of inappropriate conduct by former Aurora Officer Michael Mangino. That was a year before Mangino, a DARE officer, was arrested for convincing a teen runaway to take naked pictures of herself, records show. 

After the September story, CALL7 Investigators petitioned a judge to unseal the Mangino investigation, and the records we obtained show that there had been complaints of inappropriate conduct against Mangino for nearly three decades.

CALL7 Investigators also uncovered that 10 years before the arrest of former Aurora Police Sgt. Morgan Sellman on child porn charges, a former girlfriend told APD internal affairs that she found child porn in Sellman's apartment. 

Internal affairs interviewed the girlfriend, Brenda Gammie, and friends Gammie told about the photos she found, Aurora police records show. Aurora internal affairs never interviewed Sellman, and the records say the investigation "went nowhere."

The documents also show that there were also allegations against an officer who worked with Mangino, and together they were known as "Batman and Robin." Upon further investigation, Aurora cleared the second officer of any wrong doing and investigators determined "Batman and Robin" may have been rogue Denver police officers.

CALL7 Investigators repeatedly asked Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates to discuss the matters and other issues our investigation uncovered at Aurora internal affairs, but he has refused to answer our questions. Oates issued a video news release Thursday addressing the cases and saying his department acted appropriately in its internal affairs investigations.

"The conduct of these two men in these criminal cases was disgusting, reprehensible and contemptible," Oates said in a video news release. "I am proud of the Aurora police department’s role in getting each of them convicted of very serious felonies."

But Metropolitan State University Criminology Professor Joseph G. Sandoval, who is a former police lieutenant, said the documents raised serious questions about whether Aurora internal affairs did a thorough investigation into the officers before their arrests.

"It doesn't seem like a good way to run a police department, especially when a police department has to be above reproach," he told CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon after reviewing the records at our request.

Many of the allegations against Sellman and Mangino – except the allegation that Mangino brought alcohol to a prostitute – were made before Oates was hired to head the Aurora Police Department.

 

-- The Mangino Case --

In the Mangino case, 7NEWS reported that a year before Mangino’s 2011 arrest, a woman at a treatment facility reported Mangino's inappropriate conduct with another resident at the facility. The CALL7 story in September also revealed a court record that showed Mangino assaulted or had inappropriate conduct with at least four other women around Aurora.

Police records show the treatment facility complaint was more extensive and documented than originally thought. In 2010, a Colorado Department of Corrections supervisor heard from residents that Mangino showed up at an Aurora Mental Health facility with a bottle of liquor to see a former prostitute, who bragged Mangino was her boyfriend.

The DOC supervisor filed a complaint with internal affairs and the complaint was transferred to Mangino's supervisor, Sgt. Damon Vaz, who found the complaint not credible. In justifying why he believed Mangino did not conduct himself improperly, Vaz noted he had conversations with Mangino about religion and Mangino mentored people on the streets. Vaz destroyed the report.

The records say there was video of Mangino at the facility but the tape had been destroyed. It’s unclear if Vaz or internal affairs ever attempted to view the video in 2010.

A year later, after Mangino was arrested, Vaz was was put on one day of unpaid leave as discipline by Oates.

The litany of sex assault and misconduct detailed in the police records about Mangino stretches back to 1985, including a reference to a complaint that year of Mangino having inappropriate contact with young girls. The report does not detail what happened with that allegation.

After that, at least two woman tried to complain to police and were discouraged from filing complaints, records show.

When Mangino was arrested, his cell phone had video of him having sex with two other adult women. Police were able to track down one of the women who said Mangino forced her to have sex with him by threatening to arrest her on an outstanding warrant, records show.

Another woman, a prostitute, told police Mangino forced her to have sex several times in an alley behind a motel on Colfax Avenue in lieu of arresting her for drugs, the reports show. Other women said Mangino looked in the windows of their apartments or made sexual comments and inappropriate advances to them and their underage daughters.

Oates said that Aurora police prosecuted Mangino to the fullest extent on the charge relating to the underage girl, but he was never charged with the other allegations of misconduct CALL7 found in police records. Also, Aurora police would not explain why Mangino was never caught before 2011 despite the repeated complaints.

"If the evidence was there, we charged Mangino with whatever crimes were appropriate," Oates said in the video release.

Mangino was sentenced to 90 days as part of a plea agreement.

The Mangino records also detail allegations made to an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputy by prostitutes in the jail. Those allegations contend that another officer was Mangino’s enforcer and threatened the women Mangino allegedly abused to keep them quiet.

After Mangino's arrest, Aurora police interviewed the deputy and women. CALL7 Investigators and Sandoval couldn't determine the thoroughness of the investigation as the document has substantial redaction.

The deputy, who came forward after Mangino's arrest, said he and the other Aurora officer were known as "Batman and Robin." However, several of the women told police "Batman and Robin" were Denver Police officers taking advantage of drug dealers and prostitutes on Denver’s side of Colfax Avenue.

Oates said in his video that the other second Aurora officer was cleared, adding the allegations were turned over to Denver police. Despite Aurora police knowing the information in 2010, the DPD investigation started Jan. 14, 2013, the spokesman said. He said it is an on-going investigation in Denver.

 

-- The Sellman Case --

In the Sellman case, the ex-girlfriend said she was staying at Sellman’s apartment in 1999 or 2000. Gammie was looking for something to sleep in when she uncovered a pornographic magazine and sex toy in his closet. The "Barely Legal" magazine had additional photographs placed between the pages of photos of very young children who were naked.

"Stacks and stacks of kiddie porn inside the magazine, additional pictures of naked kids, all the way down to toddlers," Gammie told Rabon of what she found a decade before Sellman's arrest.

Shocked, Gammie said she went to Aurora Police internal affairs. Police investigators interviewed her and several women that she told about what she found. One woman said images she saw looked like a child playing in water with no clothes and was not pornographic.

The other woman, who also dated Sellman, said Sellman always wanted to have the woman’s 7-year-old daughter sleep with them. She did not believe there was inappropriate touching as Sellman was never alone with the woman's daughter.

After Sellman's arrest, a deputy chief recalled an investigation into Sellman but said internal affairs found no wrong-doing. The records were destroyed three years later, documents show.

Sandoval said police should have gone further in the 1999/2000 investigation.

"It was very superficial," Sandoval said. "It was almost as if investigators just went and talked to whoever made the complaint and confirmed what that person told someone else and that was all. It was dropped."

After Gammie's complaint, Sellman was trained as a DARE officer, working with children for at least a year before being transferred.

"The pornography in Sellman's possession was legal adult pornography," Oates said. But the records say Gammie never provided the materials she found in Sellman's apartment.

During Sellman's prosecution, Gammie's decade-old complaint was taken seriously enough that she was placed on the prosecution witness list for Sellman's trial and flown in from the West Coast. Sellman pleaded guilty to one count of sexually exploiting a child and received 90 days in jail and probation.

 

-- Aurora Police Department --

Sandoval said the information CALL7 Investigators uncovered shows a systematic problem within Aurora Police when it comes to investigating their own officers.

"It has to do with the integrity of all police officers and all police officers should be concerned about that," he said.

Oates contends there is not a problem with his internal affairs department.

"We will continue to take allegations regarding any officer misconduct seriously," Oates said in the YouTube video.