DENVER (AP) — Body camera footage released Thursday shows a Colorado police officer using a Taser on a 75-year-old man without warning less than a minute after police said he answered the door to his apartment holding a sword-like object.
The videos show Michael Clark falling backward after being shocked by the Taser as he stood inside his apartment May 30, hitting a chair on his way to the ground and temporarily losing consciousness.
Clark is not shown at the door holding the object, which was described by his lawyer as a sawfish bill but as a machete by the two responding officers. The video shows Clark opening the door and asking, “What do you want?” Immediately, Idaho Springs Police Department Officer Nicholas Hanning expresses surprise and walks toward Clark. A crashing sound can be heard on the videos, which were made public by Clark’s lawyer, Sarah Schielke.
According to court documents, Hanning forced Clark into a wall. On the video, Hanning and his partner yell at Clark to put the object down, and he immediately places it on top of a shelving unit in the apartment.
Clark then refused the officers’ conflicting commands to get on the ground and get out of the apartment, forcefully saying “No.” Then, as he was talking about noise being made by his neighbors, one of whom had accused Clark of hitting her in the face, Hanning deployed his Taser.
Hanning is charged with third-degree assault. Idaho Springs police fired him last week. Hanning’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a telephone call and an email seeking comment.
It was not until after Clark was on the ground in handcuffs after the stun gun was used on him, that Hanning told him that he was accused of punching his neighbor in the face, which Clark denied.
Clark was hospitalized before being admitted to a nursing care facility because of a cascade of health problems stemming from the shock, including a stroke, a burst appendix and hearing complications, according to Schielke.
Clark and his family pressed for the public release of the body camera footage because Schielke said police had released misleading information about what happened, suggesting Clark was at fault.
Clark, who has not watched the videos, said in a statement that there are many good police officers, but not the ones he encountered at his home.
“People like this should not be police. What they took from me that day, I can’t put into words. I’m going to do whatever it takes with what little time I have left to stop this from happening to anyone else ever again,” he said.
Last week, a judge ordered that prosecutors must release officers’ body camera footage of what happened by July 29 under a new state law that generally requires footage to be released within 21 days of a request. The faces of everyone else besides Clark and the officers must be blurred. Schielke released copies of the footage given to her with the faces blurred because she did not think prosecutors were acting quickly enough.