A timeline of 75-year-old Michael Clark's forceful arrest and aftermath:
- July 14: 75-year-old Idaho Springs man recovered after being tased without warning by police
- July 16: Idaho Springs police officer who tased 75-year-old man without warning has been fired
- July 23: Body camera footage showing violent arrest of 75-year-old Idaho Springs man released
- July 26: Idaho Springs police sued over violent arrest of 75-year-old man
The officer-worn body camera footage of the forceful arrest of a 75-year-old Idaho Springs man was released Thursday.
The videos, which are disturbing to watch, show former Officer Nicholas Hanning and another Idaho Springs police officer failing to announce they are police at 75-year-old Michael Clark’s apartment door.
Within one minute of the encounter, Hanning tased Clark without warning, the video shows.
“How I was brutally attacked, and almost murdered ... Has really affected me in a lot of ways. The memory of how I was treated, and not just how I was treated by the police force, but also then after that by the district attorney, like I was the aggressor, that has severely affected me,” said Clark in a statement provided by his lawyer, Sarah Schielke.
What the May 30 body cam footage shows
The body camera footage shows officers knocking on Clark’s door after speaking with one of his neighbors. The officers do not announce that they are police.
Clark opens the door, holding a collectible shark-tooth sword (as described by his attorney). Hanning then enters the apartment slightly and a brief physical encounter ensues, but it is not fully visible in the footage.
Hanning then backs off and pulls out his taser. Both officers command Clark to put down the sword. Clark complies and sets it down on a shelf inside the apartment. He then walks toward officers, but stops and does not step out of his doorway.
The two officers shout at Clark to exit the apartment and to get down on the ground, which Clark refuses. Hanning then fires the taser at Clark without warning.
After Clark was tased, Hanning drags him into the hallway, kneels on his neck and handcuffs him. Hanning then grabs the sword-like object that Clark had brought to the door but placed on a shelf inside the apartment when asked to by police. Hanning then places the object in the hallway.
Hanning was fired from the Idaho Springs Police Department on July 16. Hanning is facing one charge of third-degree assault on an at-risk adult, a class 6 felony, for his role in the arrest. If convicted, Hanning could face one year to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
At the time of Hannings' charge, the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office released a statement alleging Clark was violent with officers during the May 30 altercation. Hanning and the other officer, Ellie Summers, responded to a call from a neighbor alleging Clark hit her after they argued over a noise disturbance in her apartment.
Clark’s lawyer said Clark did not hit the woman in the neighboring apartment, nor did he have an argument with her. Schielke said Clark did bang on his side of the wall, but it was because the neighbors were being loud. Clark has not been charged with anything in relation to that evening.
“When the officers contacted the neighbor at his apartment, a man in his 70s was holding a sword-like weapon with what appeared to be teeth along both edges. A physical altercation between Officer Hanning and the male ensued,” the statement read. “After multiple commands were given by both officers, Officer Hanning deployed his Taser. The male was injured as a result, and ultimately taken to St. Anthony’s hospital for medical care.”
‘Seeing is believing,’ attorney says
Shielke says the video is the best way to hold the officers and the department accountable.
“Seeing is believing, but seeing is also that feeling we feel when we watch this video inside it’s what drives people to make change,” she said, “to force people to change, to demand that these public officials be held accountable.”
Schielke may be held in contempt of court for releasing the videos publicly. Clear Creek County Judge Cynthia Jones ordered the Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum to release the full body camera footage no later than July 29, and one day earlier to Schielke. The case is one of the first to test the state’s new law requiring the release of officer body camera footage in allegations of police misconduct.
McCollum’s office released the videos to Shielke earlier this week. Schielke had all the faces of non-police blurred, as required by the court, and then released the video. Jones set a hearing for Aug. 12. Schielke is being represented by civil rights attorney David Lane of Kilmer, Lane & Newman, a law office that has represented other instances of police misconduct and accountability in the state.
Clark suffered heart complications and a stroke from the taser, according to Schielke. He also had a burst appendix and required surgery on his neck. Schielke said his health has continued to deteriorate.
“Some people may wonder why I would be so set on the public release of these videos, when releasing them means that everyone I know is going to see me in my skivvies, stripped of my dignity, and assaulted in my own home,” Clark said in a statement. “But what the world will see in these videos is not me at my worst, but a police department at their worst.”
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