Aurora, CO – The Aurora Police Department has released bodycam footage that showed a combative man choking an officer and grabbing another officer’s baton during a violent altercation in 2018 (video below).
The suspect, 32-year-old David Baker, died after the brawl, The Denver Post reported.
The Arapahoe County coroner determined that Baker died of restraint asphyxia, and that heart disease and obesity were contributing factors to his death.
The incident began at 6:14 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2018, when Aurora police received a 911 call about a “physical domestic disturbance” taking place inside an apartment on East Jewell Avenue, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz explained in the video.
A family member told police that Baker would not leave the residence, and that he was “involved in a physical and verbal altercation” with his wife’s brother, Chief Metz said.
During the chaotic 911 call, the woman told the dispatcher that 10 children in the home were also in danger as a result of the fight.
Another family member later explained to police that Baker was trying to hold everyone inside the home as hostages.
The first three officers arrived at the scene at 6:23 p.m., Chief Metz said.
They heard yelling and screaming coming from the area, and saw a “male actively choking another male” as they reached the front door of the home, according to the chief.
The officers began issuing verbal commands, at which point Baker turned his attention to the officers and charged towards them aggressively, the video showed.
Two officers deployed their Tasers, “but neither Taser had an effect” on Baker, Chief Metz explained.
“After two unsuccessful Taser attempts, Mr. Baker pushes an officer out of the apartment, and then falls on a different officer,” the chief said.
Police attempted to subdue Baker with baton strikes, but they were also ineffective.
As the brawl continued outside the apartment, Baker threw a female officer onto the ground and injured her, Chief Metz said.
Police ordered the irate suspect to get onto the ground and to stop resisting, but he ignored them.
He continued to fight with police, and grabbed onto one of the officer’s batons.
“At this point, Mr. Baker and my officer began struggling over control of that baton,” the chief said. “Mr. Baker can be heard grunting and telling my officer to ‘let go’ of the baton, and that he’s ‘not playing.’”
The suspect refused to release his grip on the weapon, which officers were concerned he may use as a deadly weapon if he gained complete control of it, Chief Metz explained in the video.
While one officer radioed for backup, another officer attempted to place Baker in a “carotid control hold,” he said.
In the same moment, Baker managed to turn himself around, and began “actively choking” the officer with his hands, the chief continued.
Officers tried to drive-stun the violent suspect with their Tasers and delivered baton strikes to his legs in efforts to get him to release his grip on the officer’s neck, but they had no effect.
After choking the officer for several seconds, Baker eventually let go of him and started making his way back towards the apartment.
The family members inside quickly closed the door, locking him out, while his wife stood outside and begged him to stop fighting with the officers.
“David please stop!” she pleaded, momentarily clinging to one of his arms.
Baker continued to ignore the officers’ commands, and police punched, kicked, and drive-stunned him repeatedly while they attempted to take him into custody.
Baker then began screaming for help, but continued to fight.
By that time, the altercation had been going on for six minutes, and the officers and Baker were all exhibiting signs of exhaustion, Chief Metz noted.
Police managed to wrestle Baker to the ground, but the suspect tucked his arms beneath his body and continued to kick his legs.
Due to his size, officers had to link four pairs of handcuffs together in order to restrain him.
“Even after being handcuffed, Mr. Baker continues to kick at officers,” Chief Metz said.
While other officers spoke with family members inside the apartment, one of the officers outside noticed that Baker appeared to have possibly lost consciousness.
Emergency medical personnel, who were staged down the street, were then called in.
While they were responding, one officer asked whether or not Baker was breathing, and another officer said he could feel a pulse.
One of the officers started performing chest compressions, but stopped so that police could make sure Baker didn’t have an obstruction in his airway since he still had a pulse, Chief Metz said.
Paramedics then arrived at the scene and transported Baker to a local hospital, where he died.
The altercation was investigated by the APD’s Major Crimes Homicide Unit, the Denver Police Department, and the Arapaho County Coroner’s Office.
Their findings were forwarded to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which concluded that none of the officers involved in Baker’s arrest “had violated any Colorado statute” during the altercation.
The APD Use of Force Review Board is now reviewing the incident to determine whether or not the officers followed department policies.
“This was an incredibly violent fight between Mr. Baker and the officers – a fight that started well before the officers arrived, and continued for approximately nine minutes once my officers did arrive,” Chief Metz said.
“My officers did not have the option to just get up and walk away from the fight,” he noted. “Officers observed a male being physically choked, which is a felony. It is the duty of the officers to place this male into custody to further prevent any other crimes from occurring, and to protect the family who was present at the time.”
Chief Metz also extended his condolences to the Baker family.
A day after the video was released, the family announced that they are considering suing the APD over Baker’s death, The Denver Post reported.
“It is an incredible tragedy,” civil rights attorney Mari Newman told the paper. “He was a person who was very important to his family. He suffered from mental health issues after his [U.S. Navy] service. This leaves his children without a father.”
Newman accused Chief Metz of having misled viewers by explaining what occurred in the footage, and called the video style “wacky.”
“I can’t think of any other instance in which body camera has been released in that way,” she added. “If they didn’t have anything to hide, why should they be going through such contortions to influence how it’s viewed.”
You can watch bodycam footage of the officers’ encounter with Baker in the video below: