Two police officers in Colorado were arrested Tuesday after disturbing video showed one of them using his gun to repeatedly hit an unarmed man on his head, choke him, and threaten to shoot him, as the man bled from his head and pleaded for his life.
The other officer was accused of failing to stop her colleague from using excessive force.
"You're killing me, bro!" Kyle Vinson, 29, cried out multiple times after Aurora police officer John Haubert pistol-whipped him several times while trying to place him in custody following a trespassing call on Friday afternoon.
The graphic video showed streaks of blood running down Vinson's head while he gasped for air and cried that he couldn't breathe, as Haubert yelled, "If you move, I will shoot you."
"Don't hurt me," Vinson pleaded with the officers. "Don't shoot me, bro."
Haubert, 39, was arrested on charges of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, felony menacing, official oppression, and first-degree official misconduct.
The three-year veteran of the Aurora Police Department has been put on administrative leave without pay pending an expedited internal affairs investigation.
Officer Francine Martinez, a six-year veteran, was arrested on misdemeanor charges of failing to intervene and report use of force by a police officer, as is required by a police accountability bill that was passed after George Floyd's murder last summer. She has been put on administrative leave with pay. Both officers have bonded out of jail, authorities said.
The Aurora Police Department released body camera footage of the incident Tuesday, with Chief Vanessa Wilson criticizing the two officers for what she called a “very despicable act.”
“We're disgusted, we're angry,” Wilson said in a press conference Tuesday. “This is not police work. We don't train this … this was a criminal act,” she said.
Wilson apologized to Vinson, calling him the victim of a “horrific” act. She said that when she saw the body camera footage she welled up with tears and anger.
“This video will shock your conscience,” the chief said. “It's very disturbing.”
The two officers had responded to a call for trespassing on Friday when they encountered three men, all of whom had outstanding arrest warrants. When two of the men fled the area, Haubert immediately pointed his gun at Vinson, who remained sitting on the ground and did not resist.
The video shows Haubert and Martinez attempting to arrest Vinson, who repeatedly yells that he does not have a warrant and doesn't know why he is being put into handcuffs.
“We don't believe he knew that he actually had an existing warrant,” Wilson said at the press conference. Vinson had allegedly failed to submit urine tests, did not complete treatment for court-ordered domestic violence counseling, and failed to report to probation meetings, the AP reported.
The two officers order Vinson to roll onto his stomach with his face pressed to the ground while Haubert keeps his gun pressed against Vinson's head, the video shows.
“You guys have the wrong guy,” Vinson is heard telling the officers.
“Help, help!” he shouts out before Haubert begins hitting his head with a gun during the struggle.
After other officers arrive at the scene, Vinson is heard begging for water.
“I was just fighting for my life, man,” he is heard saying. “You guys beat me up.”
“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 incident, according to court documents obtained by the AP.
Authorities said Vinson had several large welts and an abrasion on his head that required six stitches.
The Aurora police chief called for peace in the city and urged the community not to paint the police department with a “broad brush.”
The department has a history of excessive force allegations, most notably for the in-custody death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain in August 2019.
McClain, a Black man, died after officers placed him in a chokehold and injected him with ketamine while arresting him for acting “suspicious” during his walk home from a grocery store.
Last August, Aurora police officers apologized for holding a Black family at gunpoint and handcuffing them facedown on a hot concrete parking lot after mistaking their car for a stolen vehicle.
During Tuesday's press conference, Wilson attempted to reassure the community that her department was focused on reform and training and that officers would be fired “if this is how they police.”
“This was an anomaly,” she said. “And I'm just thankful Mr. Vinson is alive.”