Michael Clark, a 75-year-old grandfather from Colorado, was seriously injured during an altercation with police in his home. According to Clark’s lawyer, Clark—who was unarmed and unclothed at the time—was “tased, kicked, tackled, punched and choked.”
He has been in the hospital ever since, and, according to his children, he might be running out of time.
“This is just so, so wrong,” Clark’s children Jeremy and Cynthia said in a statement, claiming the Taser “wrecked” their father’s heart. “We won’t wait another minute because our dad may not have another minute. Our family deserves the truth right now.”
Clark’s lawyer Sarah Schielke, of the Life & Liberty Law Office, said in a press release that her client “remains in the hospital in poor health.”
“His children and grandchildren are in despair and anguish,” she added. “They want answers. They want the videos. They want those answers while Michael is still living. Michael Clark himself has, in every lucid moment, demanded the public release of the videos. He also wants the truth made public while he is still living.”
Meanwhile, a local police officer has been charged with felony assault in connection with Clark’s injuries.
According to local officials, on May 30, Idaho Springs police officers Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers responded to a call about an alleged assault on a woman by a neighbor. When the officers knocked on the door of that neighbor, Michael Clark, the police say Clark “answered the door to his apartment holding a club-like object with what appeared to be teeth along the edges,” according to a press release.
Hanning has been charged with third degree felony assault of an at-risk adult, a class 6 felony. Under Colorado law, he could face up to two years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine if convicted.
“There was a physical altercation between the officers and the male suspect,” the release says. “The male was injured during the altercation with officers and was taken to St. Anthony’s hospital for treatment.”
A statement from the DA’s office announcing the arrest and charges against Hanning, 35, largely echoes the timeline set out in the police statement, although only the DA’s statement acknowledges that Hanning deployed his Taser.
According to Clark’s family, saying that there was a “physical altercation” and that Clark “was injured as a result” is misleading.
“The tasing caused him heart complications, followed by a stroke, followed by carotid surgery on his neck where he was choked, followed by a burst appendix,” Schielke, who is representing Clark and his family members, said in a press release.
“How will the public feel when they learn that the DA’s statement that ‘a physical altercation between Officer Hanning and the male ensued’ actually means that Michael answered his door holding a sword fearing for his life due to the police banging on it in the middle of the night and not identifying themselves, and that when Hanning ordered him to put the sword down, Michael put the sword down, and then nineteen seconds after that Hanning tased the unarmed and unclothed Michael and then ran into Michael’s home to tackle him, choke him, and punch him in his head?” Schielke’s press release also said, emphasizing the time elapsed in original.
“How will the public feel when they learn that the DA’s statement that ‘after multiple commands were given by both officers, Officer Hanning employed his Taser’ actually means that the two officers yelled at the unarmed Michael Clark to both ‘get down on the ground’ and ‘get out here now’ and since Mr. Clark was unable to do both, he just stood there, in his own home, defenseless, for 19 seconds, and then they elected to Tase him?” the statement adds.
Schielke, however, wants more accountability, particularly for the police department and DA’s office that she says are keeping information from the public while not being straight with the public about what actually happened.
“This case has way too many question marks, way too little urgency,” Clark’s lawyer Sarah Schielke told Law&Crime on Monday. “We’re trying to deal with it piece by piece so we can get as much justice for Michael as quickly as possible, but we are hitting an unusual number of roadblacks, most of which were supposed to be reduced by new Colorado law.”
Under a new Colorado law effective July 6, all incidents involving a claim of police misconduct, local law enforcement agencies and the state patrol “shall release all unedited [body camera] video and audio recordings of the incident” to the public within twenty-one days after the request is received.
“It’s particularly upsetting that the district attorney and police chief refuse to release the body camera footage while issuing press releases that are misleading about what happened,” Schielke told Law&Crime.
Schielke said that Hanning filed a motion to seal the arrest warrant affidavit, which she says “details screenshots of the bodyworn camera footage” from the incident, and that the DA did not oppose the motion. Schielke also points out that although the police department’s press release about Hanning, who has been with the department for three years, said that the officer has “no prior sustained complaints related to the use of force,” Hanning was previously involved in a 2013 incident while working as a sheriff’s deputy in a different county in which a 71-year-old suspect’s rib was broken during a physical altercation with Hanning.
Schielke also told Law&Crime that she intends to file a civil lawsuit, although at this point, the most important thing is getting accurate information from law enforcement.
“We don’t know if it will have to be a wrongful death claim,” Schielke said. “Fundamentally we’re breaking it down to what’s most important: Michael’s not in good health, and he has one request, one priority: for the public to know the truth.”
“We unfortunately have to deal with a lack of transparency and an information monopoly from the other side,” Schielke continued. “The other side is exploiting this information monopoly and imbalance of power, and it’s revictimizing Michael Clark and his family. We have to deal with that first.”
Hanning, who court officials say posted $2,000 bond with a surety, will have his first court hearing on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time.
Representatives from the district attorney’s office and police department did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
[Image of Michael Clark via Sarah Schielke]
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