DENVER – An Idaho Springs police officer charged with assault of an at-risk adult stemming from his May encounter with a 75-year-old man that left the man injured has been fired, the police department said Friday.
Nicholas Hanning, 35, who was charged with third-degree assault of an at-risk adult, a class 6 felony, earlier this month, had been on administrative leave but was terminated effective Thursday, the Idaho Springs Police Department said in a news release.
Hanning had worked for the department since October 2017.
“The Idaho Springs Police Department took immediate and decisive action by requesting that an outside agency perform a criminal investigation into the incident,” said Idaho Springs Police Chief Nathan Buseck. “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 and this incident was not acceptable.”
According to an arrest affidavit and stills from body camera video released earlier this week, on May 30, Hanning and another officer responded to a 911 call at an apartment complex in which the caller claimed his neighbor had punched his roommate, a woman, in the face after an argument.
When Hanning and the other officer, Ellie Summers, arrived at the caller’s apartment, the woman said she was not sure which apartment the alleged suspect lived in, and described the suspect as a white, older man with gray hair, according to the affidavit.
Hanning knocked on the door of 75-year-old Michael Clark twice but never announced that he was a police officer, according to the affidavit. Clark eventually opened the door and yelled, “What do you want?”
Hanning responded, “What the f---?” and went inside. Hanning forced Clark into a wall about three seconds later, according to the affidavit and body camera video, and yelled at Clark to put down a sword he was holding – which Clark did.
After that, Hanning and Summers yelled at Clark to get down and to come in the hallway as Clark complained about his neighbor banging on the wall. Officer Summers pointed her firearm at him, body camera stills show. Clark refused requests from the officers to get on the ground and told the officers his neighbor had hit the wall they shared so hard he believed they would break through it.
But shortly afterward, “without commands or warning,” according to the affidavit, Hanning used his Taser on Clark, which rendered him unconscious. He fell backward, hitting a dining room chair and the floor.
The affidavit said Hanning pulled on Clark’s arm and appears to have pulled Clark’s face into a shelving unit. A body camera image shows Clark’s eye 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.
When Clark was interviewed by Summers at a hospital, he told her he didn’t know they were police officers and said the woman who claimed he had punched her was lying, 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,” he said, according to the affidavit. “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."
Later, when Summers was interviewed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, she said she pulled her firearm because she feared for her and Hanning’s safety, but she also said that after realizing what was happening, she would not have used a Taser in Hanning’s position.
Summers received internal disciplinary action per departmental policy regarding a policy violation.
Medical records provided to the CBI showed Clark had a lacerated right eyebrow and elevated Troponin levels – proteins that regulate muscle contractions.
Clark’s attorney and family say the incident also left him with heart complications, which were followed by a stroke and carotid surgery on his neck, and then a burst appendix.
Idaho Springs police asked the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to conduct the criminal investigation along with the CBI. The full body camera video is expected to be released by July 29.
In a statement earlier this week, Clark’s two children said their father lost everything after the incident.
"Every second and every minute that goes by with the police being allowed to keep the world in the dark and make everyone believe our dad might have done something to deserve this is torture," they said in a joint statement. "This is wrong. This is just so, so wrong. We won’t wait another minute because our dad may not have another minute. Our family deserves the truth right now."