Concerned parents meet with police chief after officer's arrest | News
AURORA -- Parents of Aurora elementary school students met Tuesday with police to discuss the arrest of a DARE officer the day before.
Michael Mangino, 50, a 29-year department veteran, was charged Monday with sexual exploitation of a child.
Mangino is suspected of letting a 15-year-old runaway girl take nude photos of herself with his cell phone.
Parents arriving at Tuesday evening's meeting said they were taken aback by the arrest.
"Yeah, I was really shocked," said Latasha Whitehead. "I tried to find every excuse that that didn't happen, no way possible that happened, you know what I mean?"
"Oh my God," said Brannon Osborne. "My wife called me and told me that it had happened and even our kids were like they couldn't believe it cause they looked up to him and they basically said that was my hero."
Mangino, or "Gino" as he was known to students, has a long history of involvement with Aurora Public Schools' anti-drug DARE program.
He taught in six local schools. Parents of fifth-graders at those schools were invited to the 45-minute session with Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates and the school superintendent.
Although no inappropriate behavior by Mangino towards children has turned up so far in the classroom, some parents are concerned.
"It angers me intensely cause I don't know where my children stand," said Ronnie Russell.
"I'm hoping it's an isolated incident but I really want to find out if that's the case or not," said Osborne.
"I asked my son a lot of questions and he told me he never gave children, little girls nor little boys, special attention," said Whitehead. "He said he was just focused on what he was supposed to do... I just want answers, that's all. I just want to know what's really going on."
After the meeting, parents said Chief Oates explained the facts of the case and told them he thought it was, in fact, an isolated incident. Several said they felt reassured.
"I thought the police department was being very open and honest and they answered most people's questions and it sounds like there's going to be a thorough investigation," said Rich Horstmann.
Osborne said he felt confident in Aurora Police Schools.
"Oh absolutely," he said. "I've got three kids in the school system and I feel perfectly comfortable having them there."
Mangino is currently on leave without pay from the department while the investigation into his activities continues.