Body camera footage showed an officer choking a man and aiming a gun at his head. “We don’t train this,” an angry Aurora, Colo., police chief said.
July 28, 2021, 5:41 a.m. ET
A police officer in Aurora, Colo., was charged with felony assault after using his gun to beat an unarmed man and choking him during an arrest that was captured by body cameras, the city’s police chief announced on Tuesday, angrily saying, “This is not police work.”
“We don’t train this,” said the police chief, Vanessa Wilson, who played the body camera footage at a news conference. “It’s not acceptable.” She called the officer’s actions a “slap in the face” to a community that had already been dealing with a series of cases involving residents being hurt by officers.
The arrest and that of a second officer who was present during the encounter last Friday came as Colorado’s attorney general and the Justice Department conduct separate investigations into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in 2019 after the police in Aurora restrained him with a chokehold that has since been banned. The state’s health department is also conducting a “licensure investigation” into the Police Department’s use of ketamine, a tranquilizer, during the encounter with Mr. McClain.
In connection with Friday’s episode, Officer John Haubert, 39, who is seen in footage beating and choking the man, was charged with three felonies: attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and felony menacing, according to an arrest affidavit. Officer Francine Martinez, 40, who was also at the scene, faces criminal charges for not intervening during Officer Haubert’s use of force, the affidavit states.
Both officers turned themselves in and were bonded out of jail, Chief Wilson said.
Officer Haubert, a three-year veteran of the Aurora police, and Officer Martinez, a six-year veteran, told the homicide detective who wrote the arrest affidavit that they “were not going to make any statements until they had consulted” with their lawyers.
It was not immediately clear who their lawyers were, and the police union did not respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday night.
The man who was beaten, identified by the police as Kyle Vinson, 29, was wanted on an arrest warrant from Denver, adjacent to Aurora, related to domestic violence. Chief Wilson said it was likely he did not know he had an outstanding warrant.
The encounter began on Friday when the two officers responded to a report of trespassing at 2:16 p.m., the affidavit states. The body camera footage shows three men sitting on a curb, and two of them run away as officers approach.
Mr. Vinson does not run. He is sitting on a bag wearing a bright yellow shirt and sunglasses and is pushed down by Officer Haubert.
“What the hell did I do, dude?” Mr. Vinson asks, keeping his hands up.
“Roll over on your stomach,” Officer Haubert says, and then aims his gun at him.
“OK, bro. Don’t shoot me,” Mr. Vinson says before rolling over onto his stomach.
Officer Haubert then places the gun closer to Mr. Vinson’s head, and says, “Put your hands out in front of you.”
At this point, Officer Martinez is grabbing Mr. Vinson’s hands, trying to get him to stretch them out. Mr. Vinson repeats that he’s not wanted on a warrant as both officers struggle to make him stretch his hands.
“Get on your face,” Officer Haubert yells before striking Mr. Vinson on the head with his gun, causing him to bleed. Two large welts on the right side of Mr. Vinson’s face can be seen in the footage.
“You’re killing me!” Mr. Vinson says as he raises a now bloodied hand over his face.
After about 15 seconds, Officer Haubert grips Mr. Vinson’s neck with his left hand and, while holding his gun in his right, says, “If you move, I will shoot you.”
Crying and letting out high-pitched screams, Mr. Vinson replies, “I can’t even run!”
According to the affidavit, Mr. Vinson began to lose consciousness as Officer Haubert was gripping his throat, a hold that lasted 39 seconds. An officer who arrived later, Michael Dieck, used his Taser on Mr. Vinson, the affidavit states.
Mr. Vinson was taken to a hospital after his arrest and received five stitches for a wound on the top of his head, according to the affidavit.
Chief Wilson said Officer Haubert had been placed on unpaid leave while an internal investigation continues, adding that the investigation was expected to be done next week. Officer Martinez was placed on paid leave, she said.
Chief Wilson apologized to Mr. Vinson, saying the footage only showed the “physical injuries,” and not the emotional ones.
The episode has brought additional scrutiny to the Aurora Police Department, which has been under a spotlight for much of the past year.
In August, the state attorney general, Phil Weiser, announced a sweeping investigation into whether the Aurora Police Department employed “patterns and practices” that may deprive people of their constitutional rights. At the time, Chief Wilson pledged the department’s full cooperation and “our commitment to transparency and earning the trust of our community back.”
Earlier this year, an independent panel investigating the death of Mr. McClain, issued a highly critical report in February faulting officers for stopping him without justification and for escalating their use of force, including two applications of a neck hold intended to render him unconscious. Mr. McClain, a massage therapist, was walking home from a convenience store with some iced tea when he was stopped by police officers responding to a call that a man who “looked sketchy” was wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.