A video showing a Colorado police officer pistol-whipping and choking a Black man during an arrest has reignited anger over police mistreatment of people of colour.
Aurora Officer John Haubert was arrested on suspicion of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and felony menacing charges, after officers responded to a trespassing report where they found Kyle Vinson, who is biracial and identifies as black.
Haubert's lawyer, Reid Elkus, has vowed to "zealously defend" him. Another officer is accused of not intervening to try to stop him.
The body camera footage shows Haubert hold his pistol to Vinson's head, strike him with it, choke him and threaten to shoot him.
"You're killing me," Vinson cried, gasping for air, as Haubert holds him down, the video shows. "If you move, I will shoot you," Haubert said.
The footage has angered activists who want to bring attention to a police department plagued by allegations of misconduct in recent years, including the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.
McClain was stopped by local police in August 2019 after a 911 call reported a suspicious man. The 23-year-old was wrestled to the ground, put into a neckhold and injected with 500 milligrams of ketamine by paramedics. He died less than a week later.
That case is being reinvestigated after drawing renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd.
"This isn't about just Elijah or just about Kyle. This is about the community at whole," said Lindsay Minter, a high school track coach and member of the city's police task force. "When I talk to the kids that I coach, they're always like 'If you come into Aurora, you leave on probation.' Period. They don't feel safe."
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson called Vinson's case an "anomaly" on Tuesday and asked the public not to paint the department "with a broad brush." She put the officers on leave and denounced Vinson's treatment as a "very despicable act."
Vinson's lawyer, Siddhartha Rathod, praised her for trying to change the department.
Based on his experience with previous cases, Rathod believes race played a role in how Vinson was treated by police.
"Both our clients appear to have been treated with hatred and disdain in part because of the colour of their skin," he said.
Mari Newman, the lawyer for Elijah McClain's father and estate, said she also represented the family of a young black man, Jamaal Bonner, who was fatally shot three times in the back by Aurora police nearly 20 years ago. The case resulted in a settlement in which police agreed to change training and recruitment tactics and to make sure their force looked "more like the community they're policing," she said.
"Despite these legally binding commitments that the city of Aurora made, they have gone on to continue to brutalise Black and brown bodies for decades," Newman said.
Australian Associated Press