The Aurora Sentinel by Brandon Johansson - March 31, 2011
Aurora DARE cop accused of sex crimes
A veteran Aurora police officer is facing several felony charges after investigators say he forced a 15-year-old runaway to take sexually explicit photos of herself after he arrested her. Officer Michael Mangino, 51, is charged with sexual exploitation of a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, both felonies. The 29-year APD veteran also faces a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. And, police said, investigators believe the DARE officer who worked often with children may have used his position of power to abuse other victims. “This is a pretty sad and dark day for the Aurora Police Department,” Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said at a press conference Monday. Mangino, who also worked as a police area representative, turned himself in Monday to the Adams County Jail and was released on a $20,000 bond. As a DARE officer, Mangino worked at six local elementary schools: Vaughn, Clyde Miller, Lyn Knoll, Arkansas, East Ridge and St. Pius X. As a police area representative, Mangino worked an area stretching from Potomac Street west to Peoria Street and East Sixth Avenue north to East Colfax Avenue. The incident involving the 15-year-old girl happened in early March when Mangino arrested the runaway. Oates said the officer “caused the girl to take” sexually explicit photos of herself on Mangino’s personal cell phone. The girl later told police about the incident, Oates said, and based on the ongoing investigation, Mangino was placed on paid administrative leave March 17. When Mangino was arrested on criminal charges Monday, he was placed on unpaid leave, Oates said. Once the criminal case is complete, the department will launch an internal investigation into Mangino’s conduct that will determine his employment, Oates said. Mangino is the second Aurora police officer arrested on sex charges in recent months. In December, Aurora police Sgt. Morgan Sellman, who oversaw the DARE unit, was arrested in El Paso County on child pornography charges. He later resigned. When investigators searched Mangino’s phone, they also found sexually explicit videos and pictures that appeared to involve Mangino and adult women, Oates said. Those incidents may have occurred while Mangino was on duty and could bring further charges. “This case is not by any means complete,” Oates said.
Another video of a female student’s rear end appeared to have been taken secretly during a DARE class, Oates said. The video was clearly inappropriate, Oates said, but investigators aren’t yet sure if it constitutes a crime. “Our concern is about the potential that there are other victims of abuse of his position of power and trust as a police officer,” Oates said. Police met with local school officials Monday to discuss the case, Oates said. Four of the six elementary schools are located in the Aurora Public Schools District and a statement from the district Monday called the case “unsettling.” The district held a public meeting Tuesday to discuss the case, but barred the media from attending. Brannon Osborne, who has three children who attend schools in the district, said after the meeting that the atmosphere inside was calm and he had confidence that there is no threat to children in the district. “This does seem like an isolated incident,” he said. Mangino also worked at East Ridge Elementary in the Cherry Creek Schools District and that district, also, hosted a meeting Tuesday. Unlike APS, Cherry Creek allowed the press to attend the meeting, where Aurora police Commander Jack DaLuz addressed about 12 parents and students at Eastridge. DaLuz, who was joined by district staff and Eastridge teachers, encouraged parents to call the department with any additional information about the case. He said the charges against Mangino, who many considered an “icon” in the department, came as a shock to the entire police force. “(There were) no identifiable signs that any of us could see,” said DaLuz, who seemed visibly shaken as he recounted some of the charges against Mangino. “He betrayed his oath of office, he betrayed all of you ... he betrayed the entire police department.” DaLuz added that the charges against the officer came at a particularly difficult time for the department, following a string of officer-involved shootings and a fatal apartment fire where two officers were hurt, earlier this week. “It’s an anomaly. It’s overshadowing the heroic work of our officers,” DaLuz said. “In recent weeks, two officers have been injured by gunfire, people trying to kill them. A third was almost killed by another perpetrator using a truck. There was heroism shown at the apartment on Saturday. We can’t forget the work that’s being done in this police department. “We share the public’s anger and their disappointment,” he added. Aurora police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact Aurora police crimes against children Sgt. Joe Young at 303-739-6093 or the crimes against children unit at 303-739-6155.