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'This is not police work:' Aurora chief responds to violent video that led to officers' arrest
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Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly (left) and Police Chief Vanessa Wilson (front right) watch body camera video of Officer John Haubert's violent arrest of Kyle Vinson. Haubert has been charged with multiple felonies.

AURORA, Colo. — An officer with the Aurora Police Department turned himself into Arapahoe County jail July 26 on multiple felony charges, including attempted first degree assault and second degree assault.

Officer John Haubert is accused of strangling an unarmed man during an arrest and threatening to kill him with his service weapon pressed against the victim’s head. Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she was "disgusted" with Haubert's actions. 

Haubert is also accused of “pistol whipping” the victim—using the handgun as a blunt force weapon. The victim was hospitalized after the arrest and needed stitches to close wounds on his head.

Haubert’s body camera captured the entirety of the incident.

“Sometimes it captures amazing acts,” Wilson said in a July 27 press conference. This time, however, Wilson said it captured a “despicable” act.

 “We’re disgusted. We’re angry,” said Wilson, who added that she felt herself welling up with both tears and anger as she watched the video. “This is not police work.”

Haubert's booking photo

Police issued an arrest warrant for Haubert, who faces the following charges:

  • Attempted First Degree Assault
  • Second Degree Assault 
  • Felony Menacing
  • Official Oppression
  • 1st Degree Official Misconduct

 

On July 29, Haubert officially submitted a letter of resignation to Wilson. The police department assured that the investigation into Haubert's alleged misconduct will continue, even though he no longer works for the city.

Another officer, identified as Francine Martinez, has been charged with duty to intervene and duty to report use of force by a peace officer, meaning she faces charges for not stopping Haubert’s violent arrest. Duty to intervene was added to the Aurora PD’s Directive Manual in June of last year.

The victim, identified as 29-year-old Kyle Vinson, never threatened or tried to hurt the officers during the arrest. He was wanted for his connection to a domestic violence incident, according to court records obtained by the Sentinel.

The arrest happened Friday, July 23 around 1:30 p.m. on the 3100 block of S. Parker Road when Martinez and Haubert responded to a trespassing call. Three people were at the scene, and all had warrants out for their arrest, according to investigators.

As Martinez attempted to handcuff one of the men, he took off running. One of the other men ran too, but Vinson—who was sitting at the time—stayed on scene. As the two men ran, Haubert stood over Vinson, and pushed him onto his back.

“Whoa, what did I do?” Vinson asked. “What the hell did I do, dude?”

Haubert, with his gun pointed at Vinson, demanded that Vinson roll over on his stomach.

“Okay, bro. Don’t shoot me,” Vinson said as he rolled over.

Once Vinson was on his stomach, Haubert told him to stretch his hands out in front of him. About a second later, he grabbed the back of Vinson’s neck and pointed a gun at his head.

“I can’t breathe, dude,” Vinson said.

“You have a gun pointed straight at your head. Cooperate,” Haubert can be heard saying.

At this point, Martinez can be heard telling Vinson that they have a warrant for his arrest. Vinson insisted that he didn’t have a warrant, and that they must have the wrong guy. He turned to his side and began yelling for help. That is when Haubert got on top of him, grabbed his throat, and began hitting him with the butt of his gun.

“If you move I will shoot you,” Haubert could be heard saying later in the video.

“I didn’t even run,” Vinson said, while Haubert’s hand was gripped around his neck. Throughout the body camera video, Vinson repeatedly cried for help and maintained that he didn’t have a warrant out for his arrest. (During the press conference, Wilson said Vinson did have a warrant, but it’s possible he did not know about it.)

Haubert hit Vinson with the butt of his gun approximately 13 times, Wilson said.

You can watch the body camera recording here. Warning: The video is disturbing and includes violence and swearing.

Below is a recording of Wilson's full press conference.

“I was going to shoot him but I didn’t know if I had a round in it or not,” Haubert told a sergeant after the arrest, according to the arrest affidavit obtained by The Denver Post. Haubert also told officers that the victim’s blood was from Haubert pistol whipping him.

“I’m just thankful that Mr. Vinson is alive," Wilson said in the press conference.

Haubert, 39, has been with the Aurora Police Department for three years and Martinez, 40, has been with the department for six years. Haubert is on administrative leave without pay. Martinez is on administrative leave with pay.

“This is not the Aurora Police Department,” Wilson said during the press conference. “This is criminal.”

The police department said Haubert has no formal disciplinary history, but the Sentinel reports that in 2009, before joining APD, Haubert “was accused of DUI, felony menacing and a misdemeanor weapons charge for being drunk with a gun.” He was sentenced to three months probation.

The two men who ran from police at the scene of the arrest are still at large. 

Haubert and Martinez have bonded out of jail. As noted in the Sentinel, “it is nearly unprecedented for police to face criminal charges for conduct in the line of duty, especially just days after an incident.”

“The first part of justice has been served with the officers being arrested,” Wilson said. She also pleaded for peace.

“As angry as you are, I need peace in this city, please,” Wilson said.

The arrest of Haubert and Martinez comes roughly one year after millions of Americans protested police brutality across the country in the summer of 2020. Many of the protests were sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Aurora, the protests brought renewed attention to the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man from Aurora who died shortly after an August 2019 arrest in which an Aurora officer put him in a chokehold and paramedics administered ketamine, a sedative. McClain suffered a cardiac arrest during the incident.

Wilson was named Aurora’s new police chief last August as the department was working to rebuild public trust after McClain’s death. “We will be a transparent partner dedicated to making Aurora a safer city for all, with respect for our diversity, an embrace of unity, and continual conversation about how we can do better,” Wilson said at the time.

During the Tuesday press conference, Wilson reiterated that point: “We are trying to reform. We are trying to make a difference.”

“We will continue to take people out of this agency if that is how they are going to police,” she said. “It’s not right.”


Kyle Cooke is the Digital Media Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

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