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'There's no reason to assault me': Affidavit sheds light on alleged Idaho Springs police assault on elderly man

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Posted at 1:11 PM, Jul 13, 2021

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. — Body camera footage shows that Idaho Springs police did not announce themselves when they knocked on an elderly man's door in late May, did not warn him before using a Taser, and when they accused the man of punching his neighbor, he claimed it was "absolutely false" and that he had been asleep, according to an arrest affidavit released Tuesday morning.

Idaho Springs Police Officer Nicholas Andrew Hanning, 35, who has worked with the department since 2017, now faces a charge of third-degree assault of an at-risk adult, which is a Class 6 felony.

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The charge is in connection with an assault of a 75-year-old man named Michael Clark, who remains in the hospital and in poor health, said his attorney, Sarah Schielke with The Life & Liberty Law Office, and family.

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Michael Clark | April 4, 2021

The affidavit was released a day after the attorney and Clark's family claimed in a press release that the Idaho Springs police officer "tased, kicked, tackled, punched and choked" the unarmed and unclothed 75-year-old man in his apartment, leaving him in the hospital struggling to survive.

On July 22, the attorney released a full video of the body camera footage from that night, which is below.

The affidavit claims that on or around May 30, 2021, Hanning used excessive force and committed assault in the third-degree against an at-risk person, which is defined as any person who is 70 years old and up.

According to the document, on May 30 at 10:42 p.m., a 911 caller said his neighbor had just punched his roommate, a woman, in the face. She got on the phone with police as well and said she'd been sleeping when her neighbor banged on the wall and yelled, "Shut the f*** up!" She told police she went outside and knocked on his door and he "knocked me in the face," according to the affidavit.

She said she had been bleeding from her nose and mouth, but had washed her face of the blood.

Idaho Springs Police Officer Ellie Summers and Hanning responded to the callers' apartment. When the residents were asked which apartment the suspect lived in, the woman responded, "I don't know, right there, possibly?" and described the suspect as a white, older man with gray hair, according to the affidavit.

Hanning knocked loudly on the apartment door at 10:50 p.m., according to the affidavit and body camera footage.

"An announcement of 'police' or any other comment is not given," the affidavit reads.

A couple seconds later, he knocked again, but didn't announce who he was.

Less than 20 seconds after the initial knock, Clark opened the door and yelled, "What do you want?"

Hanning responded, saying, "What the f***?" and entered the apartment.

Body camera footage captured "unintelligible remarks" from both Hanning and Clark before Hanning forced Clark against a wall about three seconds after going into the apartment, according to the affidavit. He then backed up and yelled, "Put it down m*****f*****!" Four seconds after this command, body camera footage showed Clark putting a sword on top of a shelving unit.

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Immediately afterward, Hanning and Summers both yelled "Get down!" and Hanning added "Get out here!" according to the affidavit.

Summers pointed her firearm at Clark and yelled at him to get on the ground. Hanning told Summers to back up into the hallway and yelled at Clark to "Get out here, right now!" as Clark complained of his neighbor banging on his wall.

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When Hanning repeated for him to get on the ground, Clark responded, "No," according to the affidavit. He further explained that his neighbor had hit the wall so hard he thought they were going to break through.

After he said this, "without commands or warning," Hanning fired his Taser, which struck Clark in his abdomen and pelvic area, the affidavit reads. Clark became unconscious from the Taser and fell backward, striking a dining room chair before hitting the floor.

Hanning pulled Clark's right arm and "he appears to pull the right side of Clark's face into the shelving unit," the affidavit reads. Hanning also pulled the sword Clark had in his hand earlier into view of the body worn camera.

Idaho Springs PD Nicholas Hanning assault charge 1_sword

Hanning stated that Clark was under arrest. In the footage, a laceration above Clark's right eye was seen visibly bleeding.

Clark then asked "What is going on? I've done nothing wrong," to which Hanning replied, "You punched the girl... then you answered the door with a freaking machete, man," according to the affidavit. Clark responded, "No, that is absolutely false... I did not come after nobody... I was just in bed... I attacked nobody... I was just laying in bed... I did nothing," according to the affidavit.

When paramedics arrived, Hanning explained to one that he kicked Clark in the knee and punched him in the back of his head.

"You did?" the paramedic asked.

"Yeah, I did," Hanning replied.

Clark was transported to a hospital and agreed to be interviewed by Summers.

In the interview, he said he was in bed and heard a dog barking next door to his unit. He fell "half asleep" and then heard banging on the wall to the point where he thought they were going to break it down, according to the affidavit. He said it sounded like they were having a party.

When Summers asked why Clark did not get on the ground when police commanded him to, he answered, "Because I had no reason to... there's no reason to assault me." He further explained he didn't know who was at his door and thought it may have been his neighbors coming "at me in mass," he said, according to the affidavit. He said when he realized it was police at his door and they ordered him to put down his weapon, he said OK and did so.

"There was no need to hit me... There was no reason for him to strike me, I had my arms down... I was not going to... realize that you're police officers.... what's going on? That's all I want to know. You could've told me," he said, according to the affidavit. "I was assaulted. You knocked on my door. You didn't tell me you were the police. You could've told me, 'We're the police and we're having a problem.' I would've said, you want to sit down, we'll talk about it. You would've found out that I did not go in the hall, my door was locked, I did not punch that woman... She's a liar... I never even come out in the hall."

Based on a report submitted by Summers, she said she feared for police safety, which is why she drew her pistol and pointed it at Clark, who was holding the sword. At this point, Hanning kicked Clark's leg and Clark put the sword on the bookshelf, the report reads, and when Clark did not get on the ground, Hanning used his Taser.

In a report written by Hanning, he said Clark opened the door holding the sword "up in a manner as if he were going to attack someone with it," according to the affidavit. He said after using his Taser, he rolled Clark onto his stomach and his head hit the bookshelf. He also noted in his report that the subject was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the Taser was used to protect himself, another officer, other people and to prevent a violent felony. He did not document striking the back of Clark's head in his report.

A toxicology report would later confirm Clark did not have alcohol or drugs in his system.

About two weeks after the incident, on June 4, Clark was interviewed by an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation at the hospital.

Clark explained the loud noises coming from his neighbors and then hearing the loud knocks on his door. He said he didn't want to go out there at that time of night with possibly "crazy people out there" who may be "acting in an irrational manner," according to the affidavit. He said police did not announce themselves and when he opened the door, they didn't explain what was going on.

Clark told the CBI agent he put his sword "up beyond my reach" and went back to the door. When police commanded that he get on the ground, he asked why and then was zapped, he explained, according to the affidavit.

A few days later, on June 9, CBI interviewed Officer Summers.

She told the CBI agents that after the incident, she asked Hanning why he didn't announce himself at Clark's door and if he should have. She said they talked about how "there are two schools of thought about whether to announce when knocking on the door."

She said when Clark opened the door, Hanning stepped in quickly, so she didn't see Clark or the sword immediately but caught a glimpse of the weapon, which she initially thought was a machete. She said she pulled her firearm and pointed it at Clark when she saw this, according to the affidavit.

Around this time, she said Hanning kicked Clark and Clark put the weapon away.

"Officer Summers said the situation had changed in her mind to an arrest situation; for third-degree assault and menacing," the affidavit reads.

She kept her firearm out in case Clark reached for the sword again, she said, but felt comfortable talking with Clark and didn't expect Hanning to use his Taser. She said she would not have used a Taser in Hanning's position.

According to ISPD's policy on using Tasers, the devices are intended to control a "violent or potentially violent individual" and "a verbal warning of the intended use of the TASER device should precede its application unless it would otherwise endanger the safety of officers." It also reads that the use of the Taser on certain individuals should be generally avoided, especially in regard to elderly individuals or juveniles.

About a month after the incident, CBI contacted Hanning's private defense counsel, Lara Jimenez, for an interview and to talk about the incident.

Jimenez said Hanning wouldn't appear for the scheduled interview due to an incident with the police department in which one or more ISPD employees went to Hanning's home — without coordination from Jimenez or the CBI — and talked with Hanning. She said based on ISPD's actions, and not including her beforehand, Hanning wouldn't go to the interview and would not reschedule.

On June 29, the Medical Records Office at St. Anthony's Hospital provided the CBI with a 106-page packet on Clark's medical records from May 30-31, 2021. The records show that Clark had a "laceration of right eyebrow" and "elevated troponin," which are proteins that regulate muscular contractions.

According to Clark's attorney and family, the incident left him with heart complications, followed by a stroke, followed by carotid surgery on his neck where he was choked, followed by a burst appendix.

While the Idaho Springs Police Department said Hanning has not had any prior complaints related to use of force with the department, the attorney's press release says he broke the rib of a 71-year-old in 2013 while he was employed by the Park County Sheriff's Office.

The entire redacted affidavit is below.

Nicholas Hanning unsealed arrest affidavit by Denver7 on Scribd