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Colorado officer arrested on charges he pistol-whipped, choked suspect who was not resisting

Body camera footage_Aurora arrest with excessive force, 2 officers facing charges_Aurora Police Department
Posted at 9:38 AM, Jul 28, 2021

AURORA, Colo. — An Aurora police officer struck a man with his gun several times, threatened to kill him, and choked him during an arrest in which the suspect appeared to comply with commands by law enforcement, according to arrest affidavits released in the excessive use of force case Tuesday.

Officer John Raymond Haubert of the Aurora Police Department (APD) turned himself in Monday evening, posted bond, and was released after arrest warrants were issued for him and Officer Francine Ann Martinez earlier in the afternoon. Martinez is not in custody as of Tuesday morning.

Haubert, 39, is facing four felony charges, including criminal attempt of first-degree assault, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree assault with strangulation, as well as felony menacing. He also faces two misdemeanor charges, including first-degree official misconduct and official oppression.

He does not have any formal disciplinary history and is currently on administrative leave without pay, according to the APD. He's been with the department for three years.

Read his arrest affidavit here.

Martinez, 40, faces changes of duty to report the use of force by a peace officer and duty to intervene. She has been with the APD for six years and is on administrative leave with pay, according to the APD.

Read her arrest affidavit here.

John Raymond Haubert and Francine Ann Martinez.jpg

The arrests are the latest high-profile allegation of police abuse facing the department in recent years. In 2019, Elijah McClain died in the custody of the Aurora Police Department. Last year, the city's mayor and police chief condemned the actions of a police officer who detained a Black family and wrongfully accused them of stealing a car.

The charges against Haubert and Martinez stem from an arrest that occurred on July 23 around 2:16 p.m., according to the affidavits.

The documents show Haubert and Martinez were responding to a call for trespassing when they encountered three suspects: ​​Kyle Maurice Vinson, 29; Calvin Stevenson, 45; and Anthony Savano, 41. All three had active warrants, with Vinson having an active felony warrant stemming from a domestic violence-related incident.

While police attempted to arrest all three, Stevenson and Savano ran away from the scene, the affidavits state. Vinson was stopped by Haubert, who placed his left hand on the man's chest and pushed him to the ground, telling him to get down.

Arresting documents state Haubert withdrew his gun and told Vinson to roll over on his stomach several times.

At the time, according to the affidavits, Vinson's hands were up with his palms facing Haubert. The affidavits state Vinson had not put any resistance up to that point.

Vinson then reportedly told Haubert not to shoot him as the officer once again told the man to get on his stomach. Documents show Vinson obeyed commands to roll over his stomach, but Haubert continued to point his gun at Vinson while telling the man to put his hands out in front of him several times.

The affidavits state the officer positioned himself near Vinson's head, then grabbed Vinson's neck and pointed his pistol at the man's head.

Haubert told Vinson to put his hands all the way out while pushing Vinson's head into the ground and pressing the muzzle of his weapon into the back of Vinson's head. Vinson complied.

"It does not appear… from the body camera video that Mr. Vinson had used any force against Officer Haubert or Officer Martinez. Officer Haubert continued to press his pistol against Vinson's head despite Mr. Vinson's compliance," the document reads.

The affidavits later state that Martinez attempted to place Vinson in handcuffs, which he allegedly resisted, and was told by her to "stop."

As that was going on, Haubert continued to push his gun into Vinson's head and told him to "stop fighting."

Vinson reportedly told the officers he did not have an arrest warrant while Haubert was in a mounted position on top of the man's waist area.

The affidavits then state Haubert told Vinson to get on his face and roll over while still on top of Vinson, pointing a gun at him and later grabbing him by the neck and throat.

The arresting documents show Vinson was struck by Haubert several times as he kept him on the ground.

The affidavits claim Vinson repeatedly yelled to Haubert, "you're killing me!" as visible injuries and blood could be seen on Vinson's head while Haubert told Vinson to get over on his face.

Vinson's voice was becoming hoarse, and according to the affidavits, it appeared he was having trouble speaking. Haubert told him to stop moving, and Vinson grabbed onto Haubert's hand that was around his neck. The affidavits said it appeared Vinson was losing consciousness as his eyes started to close and he started to cry. Haubert again told him to stop fighting.

About 39 seconds after Haubert first began to strangle Vinson, Haubert removed his hand. Vinson reportedly asked Haubert, "don't shoot me please," and "don't hurt me," according to the affidavits.

As Vinson started to lift his upper body off the ground, Haubert pushed him back down and told him to "stop fighting."

Both Haubert and Martinez appeared to roll Vinson onto his left side, and Haubert again told Vinson to stop fighting, to which Vinson replied that he hadn't done anything.

"Don't hurt me, bro...don't shoot me please," Vinson told the officers, according to the affidavits.

"Grab my gun again (and) I will shoot you," Haubert reportedly responded.

Vinson managed to get to his feet, and the body camera video then shows Haubert grab Vinson by the neck and force him backwards to the ground, at which point the officer's body-worn camera dislodged, according to the affidavits.

Martinez appeared to grab Vinson's shoulders and upper torso to keep him on the ground.

"Officer Haubert pushed Mr. Vinson down so quickly that within the same second, Officer Martinez's body-worn camera recorded Mr. Vinson on his back with Officer Haubert's hand around Mr. Vinson's throat," the affidavits state.

The affidavits also state that Haubert can be heard telling Vinson,

"If you move, I will shoot you," Haubert told Vinson while squeezing his throat, the affidavits say.

"Mr. Vinson was not striking, punching, or kicking Officer Haubert. It did not appear … that Mr. Vinson made any life-threatening actions toward Officer Haubert or Officer Martinez," according to the affidavits, which state several times the suspect did not attempt to fight back.

Vinson was also never appeared armed, according to the affidavits.

Haubert sat on top of Vinson, and two other officers — Officer Michael Dieck and Officer Edward Brooks — arrived on the scene. He then holstered his pistol, according to the affidavits.

Dieck approached the trio, and after Martinez and Haubert rolled Vinson onto his side, Dieck deployed his Taser, which struck Vinson in his right thigh area. Vinson then rolled onto his stomach. Brooks controlled Vinson's left hand and arm, according to the affidavits. Vinson repeated a few times that he could not breathe. Brooks instructed him to stop fighting and put his wrists in handcuffs.

The officers then called for medical assistance for Vinson.

The affiant for the affidavits, a detective with APD's Major Crimes Homicide Unit, stated that he tried to interview Haubert and Martinez but was told they wouldn't make any statements until they had talked with their attorneys.

Body camera footage from a sergeant showed him asking Haubert whose blood was on Haubert's gun.

"Should be all his (Vinson), all that blood on him is from me f****** pistol-whipping him," body camera footage recorded Haubert saying, according to the affidavits.

Haubert told the sergeant that Vinson had tried to grab his gun "at the end" and "I was going to shoot him, but I didn't know if I had a round in it or not," according to the affidavits.

On another sergeant's body camera, Haubert is heard saying, "I was wailing the f*** out of him."

The affiant for the affidavits and APD Sgt. Jeffrey Longnecker both interviewed Dieck and Brooks, who was not present when Haubert was striking and strangling Vinson, according to the affidavits.

Officials also tried to interview Vinson at the Aurora Detention Center for his felony warrant, and he said he wanted an attorney before being questioned. He said he thought authorities wanted to speak with him because he "was beat up for no reason" and that "they didn't even tell me I had a warrant and they just attacked me because the other guys ran away," according to the affidavits.

According to the affidavits, when asked if he had any injuries that they could photograph, Vinson said his injuries were on his chest and were "all from a pistol," according to the affidavits. He agreed to have photos taken.

At the time, the affiant noticed Vinson's right eye was half swollen shut and bruised, he had a bruise and cut on his forehead, a small bruise and cut near the middle of his forehead, a bruise near his hairline, bruising and a cut on the back of his head, stitches on top of his head to close a 2-inch wound, and bruising on his upper chest near but not on his neck, according to the affidavits.

Vinson was treated at The Medical Center of Aurora and did not suffer from serious bodily injury, according to a doctor at the hospital who spoke to detectives during the investigation.

Vinson has retained lawyers from the law firms of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, the same firm representing the mother of Elijah McClain, and the Law Office of Charles A. Nicholas, P.C.

"The harrowing body camera footage of Officers Francine Martinez and John Haubert's vicious, unprovoked assault illuminates the ongoing issue of police violence, particularly against communities of color," the Law Office of Charles A. Nicholas, P.C. said in a statement. "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."

Video from the body-worn camera was released to the public late Tuesday afternoon, which you can view below.

WARNING: The video is graphic in nature, which some may find distressing. Viewer discretion advised.

During a news conference Tuesday, Aurora Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson apologized to the community and to Vinson's family, saying many officers within the department were disgusted with what they saw.

"This is not police work. We don't train this. It's not acceptable," Wilson said. "This is not the Aurora Police Department. This was criminal."

She also pleaded with the community for peace, saying the first part of justice had been served with the officers being arrested.

She also asked that the community not paint the Aurora Police Department with a broad brush following the latest in a series of scandals that have plagued the department for the past two years, most notably in the aftermath of the death of Elijah McClain.

"We have to do more training. We will continue to do training, and we will continue to take people out of this agency if that is how they're going to police," Wilson said Tuesday, referencing Haubert's actions as seen in the body-worn camera video. "It's not right."

Asked how Haubert was hired by the department, Wilson said she had no control over any basic applicant that is hired by the city of Aurora, as the police department only controls the lateral process. She then referred the question to the Civil Service Commission.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the commission said none of the current commissioners were involved in authorizing the hire of Officer Haubert in 2018.

"However, it is worth noting that all officers in the State of Colorado must become POST certified," the statement read. "POST is short for Peace Officers Standards and Training. Colorado POST reviews the criminal background of all officers applying to be POST certified and this officer passed that review. Since the Civil Service Commission by Aurora City Charter is part of the disciplinary appeal process for Officer Haubert, the Commission believes it is improper to make any comment at this time."

A Colorado POST spokesperson said that Haubert's certification would not have been affected by him accepting a plea deal back in 2009 for prohibited use of a gun while drunk, something which was revealed through a background check.

"Individuals will lose their certification if they are convicted of specific misdemeanors enumerated in the POST certification laws. Conviction also means deferred judgments or sentencing agreements," the spokesperson said.

Those specific misdemeanors can be found here.

The official added that anyone who is POST certified and is convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors would be decertified.

"An officer will also be decertified if they are convicted or plead guilty to a crime involving the unlawful use or threatened use of physical force, or a crime related to the failure to intervene in the use of unlawful force," the spokesperson said.

From her part, Wilson said she released the body-worn camera video Tuesday to comply with Colorado law, which requires that video of interactions with police must be released within 30 days of receiving a complaint.

"I hope that the transparency that we're giving you here today, as well as a swift action by our police department, makes some of you believe that we are trying to do the right thing, we are trying to reform, and we are trying to make a difference," Wilson said.

Aurora Mayor Pro Tem Francoise Bergan called the excessive force seen in the video appalling.

"This is not how we train our officers. I mean, this is just outrageous and completely unprofessional," Bergan said.

She said she couldn't believe officers from her city were once again making headlines for egregious actions against a citizen.

"It's a terrible feeling because I know we do have great officers, and we have a great police department, but unfortunately, these egregious kinds of incidents really put a black mark on our officers and our police department," Bergan said. "Honorable police officers, they're angry as well, and they don't want to see this happening. This is not indicative of our city."

Bergan feels Wilson did everything within her power to be transparent and help assure the community that the officers are being held accountable for their actions.

Bergan said the city is also working on reforms to help incidents like these from happening. In the meantime, she's begging Aurora officers to hold themselves to a higher standard.

"Understand that what you do, your actions are a reflection of our entire city and our entire police department, and if you need help go get help, we can't condone this," Bergan said.

This story was originally published by Óscar Contreras, Stephanie Butzer, CB Cotton and Adi Guajardo on Scripps station KMGH in Denver.