Aurora officer John Haubert on trial in pistol whipping case


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John Haubert is seen in body worn camera video beating and strangling Kyle Vinson while trying to take him into custody in 2021.

AURORA, Colo. — A Colorado police officer used excessive and unreasonable force in the 2021 arrest of a Black man, pointing his gun at his head, repeatedly hitting the man with a gun and strangling him for 39 seconds, a prosecutor said Tuesday during opening statements in the ex-officer’s trial.

“You can see the fear on his face,” Jade Hoisington told jurors after playing body camera footage showing the violent arrest of Kyle Vinson by John Haubert, who at the time was a police officer in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Hoisington also showed photos of the welts left on Vinson’s head.

One of Haubert’s lawyers, Kristen Frost, said Haubert had the right to use his gun like he would use a baton against Vinson because Vinson tried to grab Haubert’s gun — an act that prosecutors denied. Haubert would have been justified in shooting Vinson, she said.

Hoisington said Vinson, who had a warrant for his arrest, remained in a defensive stance during the encounter and put his hands up to try to protect himself from Haubert’s gun.

Frost told jurors that Haubert did not have his fingers wrapped around Vinson’s neck and he was only using his hand to restrain Vinson, not strangle him.

RELATED: Aurora officer facing assault charges resigns

Haubert, who resigned after being charged, has pleaded not guilty to assault and other charges. His trial follows the convictions last year of a police officer and two paramedics from the city’s fire department in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, who was put in a neck hold by police before being injected with the sedative ketamine by paramedics.

His arrest of Kyle Vinson in July 2021 renewed anger about misconduct by the city’s police department. The department’s then-chief, Vanessa Wilson, who had vowed to try to restore trust, announced Haubert’s arrest four days later, calling the handling of Vinson’s arrest a “very despicable act.”

Vinson was taken to a hospital for the welts as well as a cut on his head that required six stitches, police said.

The body camera footage shows Vinson and two other men sitting under some trees in a parking after police responded to a report of trespassing. Two of the men got away from police, but Vinson was ordered to get on his stomach and put his hands out. He complied but repeatedly protested, saying he had not done anything wrong and police did not have a warrant.

In 2021, Vinson told The Associated Press he was a homeless Army veteran who was trying to take a break from the midday heat when police approached. When the arrest turned violent, he said he thought about never being able to see his brother or his friends, ride his bicycle or eat again.

Vinson said he tried to comply with the officers’ orders as best he could and control his emotions so he would not be killed, noting the deaths of George Floyd and McClain.

“If someone was even not compliant just a little bit, they could have lost their life,” he said.

Another former officer, Francine Martinez, was found guilty of failing to intervene to stop Haubert, a misdemeanor crime created by state lawmakers as part of a police reform law passed shortly after the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. She was sentenced to six months of house arrest.

RELATED: Former Aurora officer sentenced after failure to intervene conviction

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Aurora officer John Haubert on trial in pistol whipping case

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