DENVER (AP) — A police officer in Colorado used a Taser on a 75-year-old man without warning less than a minute after he answered the door holding what authorities described as a sword-like weapon, which he had put down before being shocked, according to a court document released Tuesday.
A neighbor in Michael Clark’s apartment building called police on May 30 to report that Clark had punched his female roommate in the face, according to an arrest affidavit outlining the evidence against Idaho Springs Officer Nicholas Hanning. He has been charged with third-degree assault.
Hanning, who was with another officer, knocked loudly on Clark’s door twice just before 11 p.m. without announcing he was a police officer, the document said. Clark later said he did not want to answer the door because he thought it would be neighbors who had been making noise while he was trying to sleep.
Clark opened the door — yelling, “What do you want?” — and Hanning forced him into a wall, according to the affidavit. Body camera footage showed Clark had what police described as a “Hawaiian sword” with shark’s teeth.
Within about 10 seconds of opening the door, Clark put the weapon, which his attorney said was the bill of a sawfish, on top of a shelf but refused repeated commands to “get down” and “get out here.” Clark said, “No,” and tried to talk about how noisy his neighbors had been when Hanning used his Taser, the affidavit said. Clark fell down and hit a chair.
Hanning told a paramedic who arrived that he also kicked Clark in the knee and punched him in the back of the head, the document said.
Clark is still in the hospital six weeks later after the Taser shock set off a cascade of health problems, including a stroke, a burst appendix and hearing complications, said Clark’s lawyer, Sarah Schielke.
“He is hanging on but not out of the woods,” she said.
Schielke said Clark did not assault his neighbor and that evidence would show there were “multiple red flags” that should have tipped off police not to believe the allegation.
Police and prosecutors said last week that Hanning and Clark got into a “physical altercation” and that the officer used his Taser after multiple commands by both officers.
District Attorney Heidi McCollum’s office reiterated those statements Tuesday but also noted that Clark complied with the command to drop his weapon and that the officers’ orders to him after that were “contradictory.”
The arrest affidavit had been sealed at the request of Hanning’s lawyer, but a judge ordered that it be released Tuesday following a request from Clark’s lawyer. The judge also ordered body camera video be made public by July 29 under a new state law.
The law, which took effect when Gov. Jared Polis signed it July 6, generally requires that unedited body camera footage be released within 21 days of a request.
Hanning’s lawyer, Lara Jimenez, had opposed making the video public but said she would not fight it because she thinks it will show some of the statements from Clark’s lawyer are inaccurate. Hanning has not been asked to enter a plea yet.
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