Michael Clark had put away what authorities called a “club-like object” within seconds of two Colorado police officers confronting him at his apartment on the night of May 30, according to bodycam video released Friday to NBC News.
The 75-year-old Clark, per the video provided by his attorney Sarah Schielke, was shirtless and clad only in boxers. He was also unarmed, police said. Seconds later, former Idaho Springs Police Officer Nicholas Hanning shoots Clark with a stun gun, causing him to fall backward and hit his head. Hanning and his partner, Ellie Summers, then drag an unconscious Clark by his legs and arms outside of his apartment while they handcuff him.
Schielke released partially blurred bodycam footage this week because she said the district attorney has not done so. A judge released bodycam footage to Clark, she said Thursday. She also said “Clark’s health is declining.” The video appears to show that Clark’s interaction with the officers from the time he opened the door holding what Schielke called a “sawfish type sword,” which Clark almost immediately put away on top of a furniture stand, to when he was stunned was less than a minute.
Since then, Clark has remained hospitalized following a stroke, a burst appendix and now potential heart surgery.
Clark’s son, Jeremy, 39, called the nearly two months since his father encountered the officers “hell.” A neighbor called police about Clark after he banged on a shared wall, and she accused him of punching her, his lawyer said.
Michael Clark was never charged with any crime, his attorney said. Hanning, the officer who deployed his stun gun, has since been fired and now is charged with assault.
“They assumed things from the start from their prior experience and thought maybe they were justified in their actions and brutally attacked a person in their own home,” Jeremy Clark said Friday of the two officers.
His voice cracked before he began crying.
“Whether that’s my father, or anyone else’s father, that scares the living s— out of me. Nobody should have to worry about somebody knocking on their door and opening their door and fighting for their life for two months because they opened their door. How is that right?”
Idaho Springs Chief of Police Nathan Buseck said in an email Friday that Summers, a two-year officer, “received internal discipline and remains with the department.”
Buseck called the May 30 incident “not acceptable.”
“The Idaho Springs Police Department took immediate and decisive action by requesting that an outside agency perform a criminal investigation into the incident,” he said in a statement. “The actions of former Officer Hanning are not reflective of the culture of our organization. ISPD is an agency that takes great pride in how we interact with our citizens.”
A police statement from July 16 said Hanning, who was hired in October 2017, was fired July 15 and charged with third-degree assault.
Hanning’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Summers could not be reached Friday.
Police encountered Clark about 10:45 p.m., they said in an initial statement on July 8.
Police said: “The officers had not identified themselves as ‘police’ when knocking on the door. Hanning entered the man’s apartment and a physical altercation, initiated by Hanning, took place. The man then followed the officers’ commands to put down the weapon, walked a few steps towards the officers, and began speaking with the officers. Hanning ultimately deployed his Taser, striking the victim. The victim was not armed or holding any weapon at the time he was tased.”
A representative of the District Attorney’s Office for the 5th Judicial District, which police said they turned over the bodycam footage to, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
A judge has ordered prosecutors to release the bodycam footage by next Thursday, under the condition all civilians appearing in the video be blurred, Schielke said.
Schielke and Clark’s family said they believed Summers should also have been fired.
Schielke said her client, who has been in the care of medical professionals since May 30, is now residing at a 24-hour nursing care facility.
“This is a man who is a patriot who loves his country,” Schielke said. “Who believed in police and his government. What he went through that night changed the way he’ll see things forever, for however much longer he has left.”
Cynthia Clark, 38, Michael’s daughter, explained she and her older sibling were both adopted by their father and mother, who has since died. She and her brother were supposed to gather to celebrate when they became a family, like they do every Memorial Day. They never got to reflect on May 31 like past years. That day fell one day after police used a stun gun on her father.
“My dad is all we have left,” Clark said.
“I have always been Back the Blue. And I still am. But I am not Back the bad Blue,” she said.
Clark said every time she sees video of her father being jolted with electricity, she gets more confused because she cannot fathom “why anybody in their right mind thought this was appropriate, or justified or acceptable.”
She said she’ll be cautious around police.
“I may be a little apprehensive,” Clark said. “I know that there are good officers out there. But I also know there are bad ones, too. And I never thought in a million years that we would see that firsthand.”
Although her father’s health is not well, the encounter with police has not broken his zest for life, she said.
“His spirits are good,” she said. “He’s not ready to give up this fight for life and he’s not ready to say he’s done.”