Two Aurora Police officers face criminal charges after one of them violently arrested, strangled and beat up an unresisting and unarmed Black man while the other stood by and didn’t try to stop the misconduct.
Aurora officers John Haubert and Francine Martinez were booked in jail, but have bonded out. They are both on leave.
What the body camera footage shows
Last Friday, while out on patrol, the two responded to a trespassing call on South Parker Road.
Body camera footage released by the Aurora Police Department starts with the two officers walking toward three men who are sitting on the ground near some bicycles. Officers had run their names through state and national databases and discovered all three had outstanding warrants. As they tried to handcuff one of the men, he and another one fled.
Haubert’s body-worn camera footage then shows him turning to Kyle Vinson, who had remained sitting, and taking him brutally under arrest as Vinson insists he doesn’t have any warrants.
Standing over Vinson while he laid on the ground, Haubert appears to strike him several times in the head with his weapon and with his hands, and then attempts to strangle him. Blood spills from Vinson’s face and head, covering his hands, as he pleads for the officer to stop, sobbing several times, “Don’t shoot me, bro” and “You’re killing me!”
“The video will strike your conscience,” said Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson to reporters on Tuesday. “I know as I watched it I felt myself welling up with tears as well as anger.”
Vinson suffered 13 blows to the head, requiring six stitches. He had a CT scan and Wilson said doctors believe he will recover fully from the injuries.
“Those are just the physical injuries of Mr. Vinson,” Wilson said. “I can only imagine how he’s feeling … I’m just grateful Mr. Vinson is alive.”
Wilson said that Vinson was arrested for an outstanding warrant from Denver County, but that he may have been unaware that it existed when he was stopped.
Vinson is now being represented by a Denver civil rights firm, which in a statement Tuesday said the "vicious, unprovoked assault" on him "illuminates the ongoing issue of police violence, particularly against communities of color."
"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," the statement from Rathod | Mohamedbhai concludes.
The charges the Aurora Police officers face
John Haubert, 39, faces five criminal charges including felony assault and felony menacing. He has been with APD since 2018 and is on unpaid leave.
The other officer, Francine Martinez, has been with APD for six years and faces two misdemeanor charges for failure to report use of force and failure to intervene during Haubert’s misconduct.
She is on paid leave because the charges she faces aren’t felonies, but misdemeanors, Wilson explained.
Martinez’s charges are directly connected to police reform legislation passed last year that specifically holds officers accountable for not reporting misconduct or not intervening while misconduct is taking place.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat from Denver who authored the legislation, said on Tuesday that she was happy officers were starting to be held accountable — but that it’s devastating that such egregious misconduct is still taking place.
“It’s been very clear to me in the past few weeks that our bill has insured law enforcement officers are at least brought to trial and charges are pressed against them when they do harm to the community,” she said. “At the end of the day, if they (police) cannot follow the law and treat people in the community with respect, they should no longer be law enforcement officers and they should be prosecuted.”
It's the latest controversy for the Aurora Police Department
Wilson said her agency began investigating shortly after several other officers, including the deputy chief of police, arrived on the scene and suspected Haubert had used excessive force in the arrest. She said they pushed through the weekend to be able to bring charges swiftly.
“We're angry,” she said. “This is not police work. We don't train this. It's not acceptable.”
She noted the department has shifted its training to emphasize de-escalation strategies and to encourage officers to intervene if they see one of their colleagues violate the rules of conduct. Wilson noted the officers started training under the new police officer conduct bill last summer.
And Wilson also pleaded with the public for calm, saying APD is trying to be as transparent as possible and to hold officers who commit misconduct accountable quickly.
“I hope that the transparency that we're 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,” she said. “We are trying to reform, and we are trying to make a difference. This is not the Aurora police department.”
The APD is under several investigations connected to potential misconduct around Elijah McClain’s violent arrest and subsequent death in the summer of 2019.
A statewide grand jury is probing the officers’ involved in McClain’s death and their behavior and state Attorney General Phil Weiser launched a patterns and practices investigation into the department, with the goal of uncovering any widespread problems.
Weiser declined to comment on this investigation on Tuesday.
One of the officers involved has previously faced criminal charges
In 2009, Haubert faced criminal charges, including driving under the influence and felony menacing. He pleaded guilty to a weapons charge — which isn’t among a list of convictions that would prevent certification by the state’s Police Officers Standards and Training board.
Wilson said these incidents bring down morale for the whole agency — and she expressed sympathy to officers currently out on patrol.
“I know this is affecting you, but I want you to know that you're excellent,” she said. “And I know that you come to work each and every day through what we've been through, you still are doing the right thing. You're still saving lives. You're still putting your life on the line and we will get through this.”
Editor's Note: The original version of this story had the wrong last name for Kyle Vinson. It has been corrected. It has also been updated with the statement from his lawyers.
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