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Man pistol-whipped by Colorado officer feared for his life

DENVER — A Black man who was pistol-whipped and choked by a suburban Denver police officer said Wednesday that he feared for his life during the violent confrontation that led to assault charges against the officer and later his resignation.

In an interview, Kyle Vinson said he was afraid of dying when Officer John Haubert of the embattled Aurora Police Department held a gun to the back of his head and pointed it at his chest while arresting him on July 23 for a probation violation. The run-in was captured on Haubert’s body-worn camera.

The arrest July 23 stirred new anger over a Police Department plagued by allegations of misconduct in recent years, including the 2019 death of Elijah McClain and incidents involving other people of color.

Vinson is a homeless Army veteran who said he 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.

“Just little things like that, you’re just thinking, ‘Oh, this is it. This is my time to go, right now,’” he said.

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, a Black man stopped on the street by Aurora police in 2019 and put into a neckhold.

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

Haubert’s lawyer has vowed to zealously defend him but did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.

A week and a half after the arrest, Vinson said he still is in pain from his injuries, the worst of which is in his chest from being poked with the gun’s barrel. He said he also suffers headaches and back pain and got six stitches for a cut on his head.

Haubert and another officer had been sent to investigate a trespassing report when they encountered Vinson and two other people who had outstanding felony warrants, according to court documents. The two others ran away.

Haubert is accused of grabbing the back of the Vinson’s neck, pressing a gun against his head, then striking his head with the pistol at least seven times while ordering him to lie on his stomach, according to an arrest affidavit.

“You’re killing me,” Vinson cried as Haubert held him down and struck him, according to the video released by Police Chief Vanessa Wilson following the officers’ arrests. She called it a “very despicable act” and apologized, saying it was an “anomaly.”

The second officer is accused of not intervening as required under a police accountability law passed last summer amid nationwide racial injustice protests.

The law also makes it easier to file lawsuits against police officers over misconduct allegations. One of Vinson’s lawyers, Qusair Mohamedbhai, who represents McClain’s mother in a lawsuit against Aurora, said a lawsuit was being considered in Vinson’s case.

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