It was a hot day and 29-year-old Kyle Vinson sought some shade with a cold drink in an office park, where he was looking for work at an optical store in Aurora.
Vinson had been experiencing homelessness and had met a few guys on the streets, one who helped him put air in the tires of his bike so he could get around more. He sat near them.
Police arrived on a report that some men were trespassing. The officers asked all three of them for their names. They all complied. The officers ran their names through state and federal databases and discovered all three had outstanding warrants.
The two officers, Francine Martinez and John Haubert, began to approach the three men. But two took off. According to body camera footage, Vinson remained on the ground in a neon green shirt and black shorts. His bike was nearby.
Vinson spoke to reporters on Tuesday for the first time since the arrest from his lawyer’s office in downtown Denver. He is staying at a hotel and his lawyer, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said the two are considering a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department for what happened on July 23.
Vinson said Haubert seemed mad when he approached him.
“I was trying to figure out why he was so mad,” Vinson said. “I was scared. Immediately, he told me to roll over and I did and from that point he put a gun to my head. I had my hands on the ground and he said, ‘don’t move or I’ll shoot you’ and it was so scary.”
A police video revealed that Haubert struck Vinson 13 times with his pistol and attempted to strangle him. Haubert also tased him. Vinson said one injury to his chest is the one that still hurts.
“The first three or four hits, it just then became hard to remember,” Vinson said. “You’re just thinking about your life at the time when that’s happening to you.”
Asked whether he thought about the police brutality protest movement during his arrest, Vinson said no.
“I thought I was going to die there,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about racism or people of color at the moment. I was thinking about my life and if I was going to see my brother again and if I was going to eat again.”
Both officers involved face charges
Aurora Police moved swiftly in the case, suspending the officers and arresting both Haubert and Martinez. Haubert was charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and menacing and resigned from the department. Martinez remains suspended and faces charges of failure to intervene to prevent the beating of Vinson, and failing to report the use of force.
Vinson, who grew up in Kansas, has spent the last six years in Colorado working for concrete companies and as a crane operator. He also had a job at King Soopers.
His warrant was for a domestic violence conviction -- he had missed a couple of check ins with his probation officer, his lawyer said.
Vinson said he learned from that past mistake and had been attending classes and was trying to make it right. He said he didn’t know he had missed some probation appointments and was genuinely surprised that he had a warrant out for his arrest.
“I panicked,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I panicked because some were saying, don’t move or I’ll shoot you or they were saying roll over … I was compliant the best I could.”
Vinson’s unemployment had recently run out and he was living on the streets — but he said he was actively trying to find a job. The morning of his arrest, he had applied to be a dishwasher at a donut shop and also was trying to get back into construction.
His lawyer, Mohamedbhai, said Vinson is lucky to be alive. He added that he's happy to be representing Vinson personally, rather than his parents — had he been killed.
Mohamedbhai is also representing Elijah Mcclain’s mother, Sheneen. McClain died after police tried to arrest him in August 2019.
The Aurora Police Department faces a patterns and practices investigation by state Attorney General Phil Weiser because of that case.
Vinson said some representatives from the Aurora Police Department visited him when he was booked briefly in the Arapahoe County Jail to apologize for what happened.
“I was appreciative of that,” he said. “But it’s still hard to accept the apology — because it wasn’t him (Haubert) specifically.”
Vinson said homeless people are often mistreated by police and he hopes his case raises awareness of the problem. His lawyers have now set up a donations page for him. Through Tuesday afternoon, it had raised a little more than $2,000 from 23 donors.
“Police brutality is very real,” Vinson said. “I’m blessed I’m still here.”
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