"I Can't Breathe!": Aurora Cops Busted for Beyond-Brutal Arrest

This screen capture from an Aurora Police Department video shows a bloodied Kyle Vinson being choked by Officer John Haubert, who was arrested for his actions during the July 23 incident.
This screen capture from an Aurora Police Department video shows a bloodied Kyle Vinson being choked by Officer John Haubert, who was arrested for his actions during the July 23 incident. Aurora Police Department via YouTube
On July 27, during a highly unusual press conference, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson screened excerpts from body-camera footage to show why two of her officers, John Haubert and Francine Martinez, had been arrested for the incredibly brutal July 23 arrest of Kyle Vinson.

In the video, Vinson is choked, pistol-whipped and more by Haubert, gasping out repeated cries of "Help!," "Don't shoot me!" and "I can't breathe!"

A statement from Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, the law firm representing Vinson, sums up the incident with this: "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."

Rathod Mohamedbhai also represents the mother of Elijah McClain, the unarmed 23-year-old Black man who perished after a torturous encounter with Aurora Police officers in August 2019. The fallout from McClain's death was a major factor behind "A New Way," the Aurora Police Department's police-reform plan, announced in October 2020. But the APD had a long history of excessive force and alleged bias, with more than a dozen people of color abused by Aurora cops between 2003 and 2019.

During that span, the Aurora Police Department routinely denied any wrongdoing in cases that the City of Aurora eventually settled for millions in taxpayer dollars, with the delayed release of body-camera footage a common occurrence. The APD issuing clips of Haubert and Martinez in action just days after Vinson was bloodied and beaten stands in stark contrast to these previous tactics, as do statements from Wilson, who excoriated the behavior captured in the recordings.

"This is not police work," she said. "We don't train this. This is not acceptable."

Here's a video showing the arrest of Vinson, who was targeted for alleged trespassing along with two other men; they managed to run away from Haubert and Martinez:

And here's a clip of the press conference, which gets under way just shy of the twelve-minute mark:

The arrest warrant for Haubert included the following charges: attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, felony menacing, official oppression and first-degree misconduct. Martinez's arrest warrant cites violations of a duty to intervene and duty to report use of force by a peace officer. Wilson did not share how Vinson's arrest was flagged for potential violations, despite Martinez's alleged failure to report Haubert's use of excessive force.

The two officers turned themselves in to authorities and were subsequently released on bond. Both were put on leave; Martinez is being paid, but Haubert was not. According to Wilson, that's because he's facing felony charges and she's under suspicion of misdemeanors.

Haubert, who reportedly pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm while under the influence of alcohol back in 2009, prior to becoming an Aurora police officer, resigned his position on the APD on July 29. But the investigation into his actions won't end.

An APD release notes that "this investigation remains open and active. Additionally, Chief Wilson has ordered an expedited Internal Affairs Investigation to begin with the hope of having that completed soon."

In the meantime, Vinson's attorneys note that he "recognizes that many are unable to walk away from police violence, and he is grateful that he survived the attack." He also "appreciates the support he has received from the community."

Update: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on July 29 to note that Haubert had resigned from the force.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts