A Colorado police officer has been arrested after video showed him using his pistol to beat a man he was trying to take into custody, choking him and threatening to kill him, police said Tuesday. Another officer was accused of failing to stop her colleague as required by a new police accountability law passed during racial injustice protests last year.
In a violent and disturbing body-worn camera clip released Tuesday by the Aurora Police Department, Officer John Haubert is seen pistol-whipping and choking the man.
"We're disgusted. We're angry. This is not police work," Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the charges. "We don't train this. It is not acceptable."
Haubert was charged with attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, oppression, felony menacing and first-degree official misconduct, police said. He posted bail and was released after he turned himself in Monday.
Officer Francine Martinez is accused of failing to intervene and report use of force by a peace officer.
Police public information officer Chris Amsler said Martinez turned herself in Tuesday morning to the Glendale, Colorado, Police Department, posted a $1,000 bond and was released.
Attempts to reach Haubert at phone numbers listed in public records that may be linked to him weren't successful Tuesday evening. His attorney, Reid Elkus, said he couldn't comment because it is early in the case. He said, "We will be zealously defending Officer Haubert."
Attempts to reach Martinez at phone numbers listed in public records that may be linked to her weren't successful Tuesday evening. It wasn't clear whether she has an attorney.
Haubert and Martinez were sent to investigate a trespassing report Thursday when they encountered three people who had outstanding felony warrants and tried to arrest them, according to official documents. Two ran away and haven't been arrested, Wilson said.
The victim, Kyle Vinson, didn't suffer serious injury in the incident but was taken to a hospital for welts and a cut on his head that required six stitches, police said. Authorities didn't say whether he will face charges for an outstanding warrant on a probation violation.
"We don't believe he knew that he actually had an existing warrant," Wilson said.
Haubert used his "duty pistol to strike Mr. Vinson," the affidavit stated, and Martinez was "involved in the use of force, but there was no knowledge of her using any weapons."
"It does not appear ... that Mr. Vinson had used any force against Officer Haubert or Officer Martinez," an investigating officer wrote in the affidavit, adding that "Mr. Vinson complied with Officer Haubert's orders."
During the attempted arrest, Haubert "pressed the muzzle of his gun" into Vinson's head and right neck area before pistol-whipping him multiple times, the affidavit says.
In the video, blood can be seen running down Vinson's face while he cries out and tells the officer "you're killing me" and tries to swat the gun away from his face.
Haubert's body camera "was dislodged in the process" of the officer's grabbing Vinson "by the neck" and forcing him "backwards to the ground," the affidavit says.
"If you move I will shoot you," Haubert can be heard saying in the video as he begins to squeeze his hands around Vinson's throat.
"Mr. Vinson appeared to be losing consciousness. His mouth was open, and his eyes began to close," the investigating officer wrote in the affidavit,
About 39 seconds later, Haubert "began to remove his hand from Mr. Vinson's throat/neck area" and another scuffle ensues, in which, the investigator said, authorities "did not observe any punches, kicks or strikes being made by anyone."
Vinson was thrown back onto the ground by Haubert and Martinez, and another arriving officer used a Taser on the man, who was then finally handcuffed.
"I didn't even run," Vinson said as he "made a labored groaning sound," the affidavit states.
The Aurora Police Association didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.
Last year, the Colorado attorney general opened an investigation into whether the Aurora Police Department permits "patterns and practices ... that might deprive individuals of their constitutional rights" after Elijah McClain, a young Black man, died in officers' custody.
Officers on Aug. 24, 2019, placed him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with a large dose of ketamine, a powerful sedative. McClain, 23, died days later.
A year later, the police department drew additional scrutiny after a viral video showed officers with guns drawn on a group of Black women and girls who had been ordered to lie face down in a parking lot while some of them were handcuffed. The group cried and screamed, with one young girl yelling, "I want my mother!"
The officers had stopped their car on the belief that it was stolen because it shared the plate number of a stolen motorcycle, a police spokeswoman said. But after they determined that the car hadn't been stolen, police "unhandcuffed everyone involved, made efforts to explain what happened, and apologized," officials said.
Last year, Colorado legislators passed a bill that, among other things, requires all officers to use body cameras by July 2023, bans chokeholds, limits potentially lethal uses of force and removes qualified immunity from police, potentially exposing officers to lawsuits for their actions in use-of-force cases.
The law also requires officers to intervene when they see colleagues use excessive force and to report it to superiors.
Legislators strengthened the law this year to encourage more officers to use their body cameras and promote "deescalation techniques" in police encounters.