Man sues Aurora Police officers after excessive force during an arrest for a minor traffic stop

Aurora Police Department
A screen capture from body-camera footage from the May 2021 traffic stop of Preston Nunn.

A Black man has sued eight Aurora Police officers for violating his civil rights after officers pointed a gun at his head, put him in a chokehold and tased him during a minor traffic stop.

In May 2021, officers stopped Preston Nunn for changing lanes while officers were conducting another traffic stop. Nunn pulled over and unrolled his window. 

The officer, Gabriel Nestor, asked for his registration and license and told him he was going to “tow” his vehicle, according to the body camera footage and the lawsuit. Nunn dangled his registration out the window and then reached for his wallet in his pants. Nestor drew his gun and began screaming at him.

“What are you digging for? Stop digging!” he screamed. “Hands on your face!”

Nunn, who was unarmed, complied. Nestor radioed for more units for assistance. Nunn said he was reaching for his wallet and kept his hands on his face. His female passenger asked the officer, “You asked him to give you his wallet?” according to the lawsuit.

Nestor said, “Yes, and then he started digging in his pants.”

“What’s he supposed to do?” she asked the officer.

Backup cars arrived. The lawsuit said that Nunn was terrified of all the other officers and Nestor’s gun, still pointed at his head. He said, “I’m just going to get out.” He stepped out of the car and another officer, Cody Goetz, tackled him to the ground. 

Nunn’s head hit the ground and he began bleeding, according to the body camera footage of the incident. Several officers kept their guns drawn and then Goetz applied a chokehold, which was banned in Colorado in 2020.

Nunn laid on the ground, as another officer attempted to handcuff him. Nunn repeated that he had a license and registration. 

Nestor shouted, “I’m going to tase him!” 

Nunn was tased twice, once in the arm and then in the stomach area, according to the lawsuit

Officers called for medical assistance. Nunn said, “Why did you bang my head into the ground like that? Why did you do that?”

Nestor replied, “You about got shot, bud!” 

Nunn was transported to the hospital and was treated and then went to jail. Eventually, though, all the charges from that night were dropped.

“It was one of the most traumatizing moments of my life. I am still hurt about what will happen to me and I’m still searching for justice,” said Nunn, 26, this week in an interview from his lawyer’s office. “I am still here to fight for it.”

One of Nunn’s lawyers, Crist Whitney, said he was treated unfairly because his client is a Black man.

“The only plausible explanation for this senseless escalation is that Mr. Nunn, a Black man, was treated differently by the Aurora officers due to his race,” according to the lawsuit filed against the officers this week in state court. “But for the fact that Mr. Nunn is Black, his reaching into for his wallet to comply with Officer Nestor’s order to produce a driver’s license would not have caused officers to detain him at gunpoint and use excessive force.”

The Aurora Police Department is under a consent decree to improve practices after several reports released in the past few years confirmed a pattern of racist policing. One 2021 report found that APD used force against people of color almost two and a half times more than against white people, based on their relative percentage of the city’s population. The report also found that APD arrested Black citizens two times more than white citizens.

The agency’s scrutiny comes after the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man who was forcibly arrested by Aurora officers in 2019 and later died.

Aurora city officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.