An Aurora police officer beat an unarmed man with a pistol 13 times, choked him and threatened to kill him while responding to a trespassing call in Aurora last week, body camera footage released Tuesday shows.
Days after the violent arrest, the Aurora Police Department announced that the officer, John Haubert, faces allegations of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and menacing, which are felonies, as well as charges of official oppression and first-degree official misconduct, which are misdemeanors.
A warrant was issued for Haubert’s arrest and he was taken into custody.
In the body camera footage, Haubert approaches Kyle Maurice Vinson, who is sitting near a tree, and orders him to roll over onto his stomach. Haubert, who has his gun drawn, then places his hand around Vinson’s neck, forcing his head down into the ground and pointing the gun at Vinson’s head.
Haubert then starts to hit Vinson in his head with the pistol as he rolls onto his back, ordering him to “stop fighting.”
Vinson is heard crying — “you’re killing me,” he said — and blood is seen on his hands and neck. Haubert then grabs Vinson by the throat as he lay on the ground and chokes him until he has trouble speaking.
Vinson is not seen making any threats toward the officers.
“If you move, I will shoot you,” Haubert is heard saying to Vinson, 29.
WATCH the footage from Aurora Police Department here.
Warning: The content in this video may be disturbing to some viewers.
Another responding officer, Francine Martinez, faces two misdemeanor charges, including failure to report use of force and failure to intervene, the department said.
The arrests come nearly a year after the Colorado Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into the “patterns and practices” of the Aurora Police Department.
The probe came in the wake of national outrage over the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain after an encounter with Aurora police officers and paramedics, as well as criticism about the agency’s other dealings with the public.
The attorney general’s office is also reviewing McClain’s death to determine if charges should be brought against any of the officers and paramedics who stopped him. McClain, 23, was unarmed and had committed no crime.
“This is not the Aurora Police Department. This is criminal.”
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson called the officers’ actions “despicable” during a news conference Tuesday before showing the body-worn camera footage from the Friday arrest in the southwest part of Aurora. She called for the community to remain calm as the investigation continues.
“I hope that the transparency that we are giving you here today as well as the swift action by our police department can make some of you believe that we are trying to do the right thing. We are trying to reform and make a difference,” Wilson said. “This is not the Aurora Police Department. This is criminal.”
Shortly after Haubert and Martinez were called to the 3100 block of South Parker Road on Friday afternoon on a trespassing call, the officers learned that Vinson and two other men had open warrants for their arrest, Wilson said. The two other men fled shortly after the officers arrived.
Wilson said she does not believe that Vinson, who had an open warrant from a domestic violence charge out of Denver, knew he had an open warrant.
Wilson said she ordered an internal affairs investigation after reviewing the body-camera footage Monday. It was the second time doing so since she became chief — the first was after Aurora police officers posed reenacting a chokehold at the site of where Elijah McClain was pinned down by police.
Wilson said she decided to release the footage because the public has the right to know what happened.
“We are going to continue to train, we are going to continue to bring in best practices,” Wilson said. “But this was an anomaly. I am just thankful (he) is alive.”
Vinson suffered several welts and got six stitches for an open wound on his head.
Haubert, who is a patrol officer, has been employed by the department since 2018. He does not have a disciplinary record with the department, Wilson said.
Because Haubert faces several felonies, he was placed on administrative leave without pay, she said.
Martinez, who has served with the department for six years, was placed on paid administrative leave. In the past, she received a written reprimand for handling of evidence and a 10-hour suspension for her responsibility for a preliminary investigation, Wilson said.
The charges against Martinez come as a result of Senate Bill 217, which was passed by state lawmakers last year and states police officers have a duty to intervene and report another officer who uses deadly force when there is no imminent threat of danger.
Both officers have posted bail and have been released from jail, the chief said.
The law firms of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC and Charles A. Nicholas said Tuesday night that they have been retained by Vinson.
“The harrowing body camera footage of officers Francine Martinez and John Haubert’s vicious, unprovoked assault illuminates the ongoing issue of police violence, particularly against communities of color,” the law firms said in a joint statement. “Mr. Vinson recognizes that many are unable to walk away from police violence and he is grateful that he survived the attack. Mr. Vinson appreciates the support he has received from the community.”