Georgetown, CO – A former Idaho Springs police officer was sentenced to two years on probation last week in connection with the tasing of a 75-year-old suspect who suffered medical complications after being shocked.
The incident occurred at approximately 11 p.m. on May 30, 2021, after Idaho Springs Police Department (ISPD) Officer Nicholas Hanning and Officer Ellie Summers were dispatched to a report of an assault at an apartment located in the 3200-block of Riverside Drive, the Colorado 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said in a press release on Jan. 27.
The officers made contact with the female victim who claimed who was woken up by the sound of her neighbor pounding on the wall and yelling at her to “shut the f—k up,” bodycam footage showed.
The woman said she stepped out into the hallway to figure out what was going on and was confronted by her neighbor.
“He was like, ‘shut the f—k up!’” she recounted, swinging her arm to show officers the punch the man allegedly threw at her.
The woman said the man hit her right in her mouth and nose.
The officers headed down to the next apartment and knocked on the door, bodycam footage showed.
They did not announce themselves and remained out of sight of the peep hole.
“What do you want?” the man said, throwing his door open.
He was later identified as 75-year-old Michael Clark, according to the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said Clark, who was wearing only his boxers, was holding “a sword-like object in his right hand,” according to the press release.
“What the f—k?” Officer Hanning said as he stepped into the apartment and ordered Clark to drop the weapon, bodycam footage showed.
Clark set the blade down on top of a tall piece of furniture, then turned back towards the officers.
Officer Summers ordered him to get onto the ground, and Officer Hanning told him to come out into the hallway, the video showed.
“No,” Clark responded, just before Officer Hanning deployed his Taser.
The suspect fell backwards in the hallway and was knocked unconscious, Officer Summers noted in the video.
“Taser deployed. Party came out with a machete,” she said over her radio.
Clark regained consciousness after the officers moved him out into the hallway, handcuffed him, and requested an ambulance.
He claimed the confrontation with his neighbor occurred because his neighbor hit his wall so hard that it moved his bed about two feet.
Clark was transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital, according to the district attorney’s office.
His family said he suffered a stroke due to being tased, leaving him with a brain injury that now requires someone to care for him 24 hours per day, KCNC reported.
Clark was never charged with a crime in connection with the alleged assault on his neighbor, according to The Denver Post.
Officer Hanning, 36, was charged with felony assault of an at-risk adult on July 21.
The ISPD fired him four days later, The Denver Post reported.
The Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board also decertified him “for is excessive use of force against Mr. Clark,” the district attorney’s office said in the press release.
Officer Hanning pleaded guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor third-degree assault on Dec. 9, 2021.
He was sentenced to two years of probation, 120 days of electronic home monitoring and 150 hours of community service on Jan. 27.
“It really was a tragic error and mistake on Hanning’s behalf,” Clear Creek County Deputy District Attorney Steve Potts said during the sentencing hearing, according to KCNC.
Now-former Officer Hanning apologized to the Clark family and the community during the proceeding.
“I know my actions should have and could have been better…I know my actions were unlawful, that’s why I took responsibility in this case and pled guilty,” he said. “I tarnished the badge I once wore.”
Clear Creek District Court Judge Cynthia Jones acknowledged during the hearing that Hanning’s actions were “inexcusable,” but that the had to “consider all the factors” when imposing an appropriate sentence, The Denver Post reported.
Jones said the now-former officer’s actions constituted “an abuse of the public trust by a police officer” and violated his training, but that he was also unlikely to reoffend.
The judge said she also needed to consider Hanning’s lack of criminal history, his current employment status with a trucking company, and the positive social support he has from family and friends, according to The Denver Post.
“Part of my consideration here is to not cost our taxpayers any more,” Jones added.
Clark’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, blasted Potts for not seeking a jail sentence for the former officer, KCNC reported.
“I didn’t hear a prosecutor in there, what I heard were two defense attorneys,” Schielke declared. “I have never seen in my life a district attorney get up at sentencing and speak on behalf of the defendant he just prosecuted. That was bizarre, unsettling and I am still practically speechless at the audacity of this district attorney’s office to not even request a day of jail.”
Clark’s children also denounced the sentence in a statement released after the hearing, the Denver Post reported.
“We had hoped and prayed that today this judge would give us some measure of healing by sentencing Hanning to jail,” they said. “Any amount of jail. Instead, she gave him special treatment. She gave him no punishment at all.”
District Attorney Heidi McCollum said her office strongly believes law enforcement officers “need to be held accountable for their actions when performing their trusted public service duties.”
“While we understand that law enforcement officers have difficult jobs to do, Mr. Hanning made a reckless decision, and the wrong decision, to deploy his Taser on Mr. Clark, causing him and his family so much pain and suffering over the last eight months,” McCollum said.
“Like Hanning, any police officer who uses excessive force on another person without any legitimate justification for doing so, should absolutely lose their Colorado POST certification and be barred from ever working in law enforcement again,” she added.
Clark has also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Idaho Springs and Hanning, The Denver Post reported.