Skip to content

Black man pistol-whipped by Aurora officer testifies that he feared for his life

CENTENNIAL | An Aurora 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 in the head 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 video showing the violent arrest of Kyle Vinson by John Haubert, who at the time was a police officer in the Denver suburb of Aurora. He also showed photos of the welts left on Vinson’s head.

Later, Vinson testified that he thought he might die after mistakenly believing that Haubert had accused him of having a gun, when Haubert in fact said he had one pointed at the back of the man’s head. Vinson looked down as body camera video of the arrest was played while he was on the witness stand, sitting just a few feet from Haubert.

Vinson, who is now serving a prison sentence in another case, said he had initially refused to come to court to testify against Haubert.

“I don’t like reliving it a lot. Usually I feel like people who are in this situation, with police brutality, are dead,” Vinson said. The judge did not allow him to continue along those lines after the defense objected.

The defense argued that Haubert had the right to use his gun like he would use a baton because Vinson tried to grab Haubert’s firearm — something that prosecutors denied he did.

Hoisington said Vinson, who had a warrant for his arrest in a domestic violence case at the time of his arrest, remained in a defensive stance during the encounter and put his hands up to try to protect himself.

Defense lawyer Kristen Frost presented a still photo made from video that Vinson acknowledged showed three of his fingers on Haubert’s gun. But Vinson said he was not trying to grab it.

In questioning Vinson, Frost pointed out that he did not initially cooperate by getting on his stomach when Haubert ordered him to do so.

Frost also argued that Haubert did not strangle Vinson, putting his hand on Vinson’s neck to hold him down but not wrapping his fingers around it.

Haubert’s trial follows the convictions last year of an Aurora 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.

Vinson’s violent arrest 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.

Haubert and another officer stopped Vinson and two other men after responding to a trespassing complaint at the parking lot of a shopping center. Initially things were relatively calm, with Haubert telling the men to take a seat on a curb in the shade and letting Vinson finishing smoking his cigarette, according to body camera video.

But the defense said the situation escalated after the other officer, Francine Martinez, surprised Haubert by trying to arrest one of the other men rather than waiting for backup. That man and another next to him ran, but Vinson stayed.

Frost told jurors in opening statements that Haubert, not knowing where the other men were or if they were armed, had to act quickly to make sure Vinson did not get away, and arrest him.

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 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. She was sentenced to six months of house arrest.