A police officer in Colorado used a Taser on a 75-year-old man less than a minute after he answered his door with a “Hawaiian sword” but after he put down the weapon and without issuing any warning, according to a court document released Tuesday.
The arrest affidavit outlining the evidence against Idaho Springs police Officer Nicholas Hanning, who has been charged with third-degree assault in the May 30 incident, had been sealed at the request of his lawyer but Judge Cynthia Jones ordered that it be made public following a request from the lawyer for the alleged victim, Michael Clark. Despite the decision to prosecute Hanning, Clark’s lawyer, Sarah Schielke, said the limited information previously released by authorities about what happened suggested that Clark deserved the treatment.
According to the affidavit, which includes still images of police body camera video, a neighbor in Clark’s apartment building called police to report that Clark had punched his roommate, a 30-year-old woman, in the face. Hanning, who was with another officer, knocked loudly on Clark’s door twice a little before 11 p.m. without announcing that it was the police, the document said. In later interviews, Clark said he did not want to answer the door because he thought it would be people from the neighboring apartment who had been making a lot of noise as he was trying to sleep.
After Clark opened the door — yelling “What do you want?” — and Hanning forced him into a wall, body camera footage showed Clark had what was described as a sword with shark’s teeth, according to the affidavit. Within about 10 seconds of opening the door, Clark put the sword on top of a shelving unit but refused repeated commands from the two officers to “get down” and “get out here.” Clark said “No,” and tried to talk about how noisy his neighbors had been when Hanning deployed his Taser, causing Clark to fall backwards to the ground, hitting a chair.
Hanning told a paramedic who arrived to help Clark that he also kicked Clark in the knee and punched him in the back of the head, the document said.
Clark remains in the hospital in poor health six weeks later because of a cascade of health problems that resulted from the use of the Taser, including hearing complications, a stroke and a burst appendix, according to Schielke.
“He is hanging on but not out of the woods,” she said.
Schielke said Clark did not assault his neighbor and said evidence would show there were “multiple red flags” that should have prevented police for believing the allegation.
In statements last week, police and prosecutors said Hanning and Clark, identified then as the suspect, got into a “physical altercation” and Hanning used his Taser after multiple commands were given by both officers.
Also on Tuesday, the judge ordered that body camera footage in the case must be released to the public by July 29 under a new state law that generally requires such videos to be released within 21 days of a request.
The law that took effect immediately when Gov. Jared Polis signed it July 6 generally requires that unedited body camera footage be released within 21 days of a request. However, since the first request for the video was made by Clark’s daughter on May 31, before the law took effect on July 6, the timeline requiring the video to be released did not start until Hanning was charged on July 8 under another portion of the law, Jones said.
Hanning’s lawyer, Lara Jimenez, previously opposed the release of the footage but, after Schielke’s public comments calling for its release, she said she would not fight its disclosure because she thinks it will show some of Schielke’s statements were inaccurate. Hanning has not been asked to enter a plea to the charge yet.
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