Crime

Aurora Cop Fired for Not Stopping Brutal Attack by Partner

Former Aurora police officer Francine Martinez as seen in a 2017 interview.
Former Aurora police officer Francine Martinez as seen in a 2017 interview. 9News
Former Aurora police officer Francine Martinez isn't accused of beating Kyle Vinson last month in a disturbing attack caught on body-camera video; the abuser was her partner, John Haubert, who resigned from his gig after he and Martinez were served with arrest warrants. But she's now been fired for not trying to stop the assault and failing to report what happened to her superiors.

This development represents a long fall for Martinez, who was previously held out as an example of first-rate law enforcement work, as witnessed by this 9News package from 2017, in which she was lauded for her use of Narcan to save the life of a drug user in the midst of an overdose. But it also demonstrates the effectiveness of Senate Bill 217, a 2019 police-reform measure that "creates a duty for officers to intervene and stop excessive force and makes failure to intervene by an officer a criminal offense."

The reasons cited by Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson for firing Martinez were "duty to intervene and report intervention," "unsatisfactory performance" and "conformance to law."

For years, the Aurora Police Department was hardly an exemplar of holding brutal officers accountable; the APD's long history of excessive force and alleged bias includes more than a dozen claims of abuse against people of color by cops on the force between 2003 and 2019. Settlements in those cases exceeded $4.6 million — and that total could grow, given ongoing litigation in the case filed by the family of Elijah McClain, who died in August 2019 following a torturous encounter with Aurora police officers.

Vinson has secured the assistance of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, the law firm acting on behalf of McClain's mother, Sheneen. And in a statement provided to Westword regarding Martinez's firing, Rathod Mohamedbhai co-founder Qusair Mohamedbhai writes: "Mr. Vinson welcomes the termination of Francine Martinez. He continues to struggle through his recovery and appreciates the support he has received from the community."

In contrast to its previous habit of responding to abuse accusations with denials and delays, the Aurora Police Department issued clips of Haubert and Martinez in action just days after Vinson was bloodied and beaten on July 23. Wilson publicly excoriated the officers' behavior at a July 27 press conference, during which she announced criminal charges against the pair; Haubert has been accused of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, felony menacing, official oppression and first-degree misconduct, while Martinez faces claims that she violated a duty to intervene and a duty to report use of force by a peace officer.

Here's a video showing the arrest of Vinson, who was choked and pistol-whipped after being targeted for alleged trespassing along with two other men, who managed to run away from Haubert and Martinez. 
The legal path that Haubert and Martinez are now on is headed in a very different direction from one taken by former Denver Police Department officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr, who were recently revealed to have received more than $1 million in back pay after being fired (but not prosecuted) for beating Michael DeHerrera in 2009.

Click to read about "A New Way," the Aurora Police Department's police-reform plan, and arrest warrants for John Haubert and Francine Martinez.
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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