AURORA, Colo. (AP) – Video of a police officer whipping and suffocating a black man during an arrest in a Denver suburb has rekindled anger at community policing, activists denouncing what they say on Wednesday is just the latest example of the mistreatment of people of color.
Aurora’s officer John Haubert was arrested on suspicion of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and threatening crime charges, after officers responded to a trespass report on Friday where they found Kyle Vinson, who is biracial and identifies as black.
Haubert’s lawyer, Reid Elkus, has vowed to “defend him zealously.” Another officer is accused of not having intervened to try to stop him.
Body camera footage shows Haubert holding his gun to Vinson’s head, hitting him with it, strangling him, and threatening to shoot him.
“You’re killing me,” Vinson yelled, breathlessly, as Haubert held him down, the video shows. “If you move, I’ll shoot you,” Haubert said.
The footage has angered activists who want to draw attention to a police department plagued by allegations of misconduct in recent years, including the death of Elijah McClain in 2019.
McClain was walking on a city street east of Denver in August 2019 when he was arrested by local police after a 911 call reported a suspicious man. The 23-year-old black man was wrestled to the ground, put in a neck socket and injected with 500 milligrams (0.02 ounces) of ketamine by paramedics. McClain died less than a week later.
No officer has been charged in the case, but Democratic Governor Jared Polis has asked Attorney General Phil Weiser to reconsider whether anyone should be prosecuted after the case attracted renewed attention following George’s murder. Floyd. The investigation is still ongoing.
Last year, the police department was also criticized for an incident in which four black girls were handcuffed and ordered face down in a parking lot after a confusion in a stolen car.
“It’s not just about Elijah or Kyle. It’s about the community as a whole, ”said Lindsay Minter, high school track coach and member of the city’s police task force. “When I talk to the kids I coach, they always say ‘If you come into Aurora, you go on probation.’ Full stop, they don’t feel safe.
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on Tuesday called Vinson’s case an “anomaly” and asked the public not to paint the department “with a broad brush”. She put the police on leave and denounced Vinson’s treatment as a “very despicable act”.
Rathod praised her for trying to change the department, but criticized Mayor Mike Coffman for not coming forward or apologizing to Vinson. He called on Coffman to resign.
Vinson’s attorney Siddhartha Rathod, whose law firm also represents McClain’s mother in a lawsuit against Aurora, said the city had a long history of disciplining officers for professional misconduct.
In a tweet, Coffman said he didn’t think it was appropriate for him to comment until the investigation was completed.
“The time has come for a leader who will stand up for communities of color and oppose police violence,” said Rathod.
Based on his experience in previous cases, Rathod believes race played a role in how Vinson was treated by the police.
“Our two clients seem to have been treated with hatred and disdain in part because of the color of their skin,” he said.
Rathod said the criminal justice system treated Vinson, who was on a probation violation warrant, harsher than the officer accused of beating him. His bail was only set on Wednesday, forcing him to stay in jail while he waited, while Haubert was able to transform into authorities and be released quickly, he said.
Mari Newman, lawyer for Elijah McClain’s father and estate, said she represented the family of a young black man, Jamaal Bonner, who was shot three times in the back by police in Aurora almost 20 years ago. The case resulted in a settlement in which the police agreed to change their training and recruiting tactics and ensure that their force is “more like the community they are monitoring,” she said.
“Despite these legally binding commitments that the city of Aurora made, they continued to brutalize black and brown bodies for decades,” Newman said.
Slevin in Denver contributed to this report. Nieberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.