A jury will decide whether a former Aurora police officer should be criminally punished for not stopping her patrol partner from severely beating and threatening to kill a man during a 2021 arrest.
The trial is likely the first in the state under Colorado’s new failure-to-intervene statute, which was created under the landmark 2020 police reform bill SB20-217 passed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
The former Aurora police officer, Francine Martinez, failed to stop her partner, John Haubert, from beating an unarmed man with his duty pistol, choking him and threatening to kill him even though the man never attempted to hurt or threaten the officer, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
“The evidence will show Francine Martinez did nothing and we will hold her accountable for that,” Brian Sugioka, chief deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said in his opening statement.
Martinez’s defense attorney argued that Martinez can only be held accountable based on her knowledge of the situation at the time. The man they were trying to arrest fought them for more than two minutes and Martinez never had a chance to safely intervene, attorney David Goddard said.
“She doesn’t know why Officer Haubert has drawn his weapon, but she knows officers are trained to draw their weapon if there is a threat,” he said.
Prosecutors played part of the body camera footage that captured the July 23, 2021, arrest of Kyle Vinson. Martinez and Haubert were dispatched to a trespassing call and found three men sitting beneath a tree. Two of the men fled when the officers tried to arrest them on warrants, but Vinson stayed put, the video shows.
Haubert drew his pistol and pointed it at the third suspect, even though he had his hands up and had not fled or shown any signs of physical resistance, according to his arrest affidavit. Over the next two minutes, Haubert pressed the muzzle of his gun into the back of Vinson’s head, choked him and struck him in the head at least seven times with his handgun.
The man “was not striking, punching or kicking Officer Haubert” and was not making any life-threatening actions toward the officers, the affidavits state.
Vinson can be heard pleading for help in the video.
“You’re killing me! You’re killing me!” Vinson choked out while the officer hit him.
Martinez did nothing to intervene in Haubert’s actions even though she had time to do so, Sugioka told the jury.
The Aurora police chief at the time called Haubert’s actions “a very despicable act” and released body camera footage of the incident four days after the arrest. Martinez, who had been with the department for six years, was fired in July 2021 after an internal investigation found she violated three department directives: duty to intervene and report intervention, unsatisfactory performance, and conformance to law.
Haubert in June pleaded not guilty to six charges — including felony assault and menacing charges — and is scheduled for trial in November.
While Martinez’s case is likely the first failure to intervene case to go to trial, a Loveland police officer in 2022 pleaded guilty to the charge for failing to stop another officer from violently arresting a 73-year-old woman. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail, three years on probation and 250 hours of community service.
Martinez’s trial is scheduled to end Thursday.
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