GRAPHIC: Body cam video shows violent altercation between Aurora PD, veteran who died of restraint asphyxia

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AURORA, Colorado — The Aurora Police Department late Monday night released body camera footage of its officers involved in a 12- minute altercation with a man who ended up dying from what the coroner called restraint asphyxia in late 2018. 

David Baker, a Navy veteran and father, was fighting back with officers who had responded to a domestic.

Aurora PD released multiple angles of the fight along with their version of what happened.

While the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office ruled the death of 32-year-old Baker a homicide, prosecutors quietly decided not to file any charges against any of the officers who responded to the chaotic scene in Aurora on Dec. 17, 2018.

The day after the fight – a fight that eventually led to a police response of more than two dozen officers – Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz called the event, “one of the most violent altercations I have seen in my [35-year] career.”

According to the autopsy report, Baker died of “restraint asphyxia.” In other words, the position he was placed in – in this case on his stomach – prevented him from breathing adequately. He was handcuffed at the time. According to more than 400 pages of police reports reviewed by 9Wants to Know, at least seven of the responding officers worked to hold down the 237-pound man at the time of his arrest.

“There were so many people on top of him,” David Baker’s wife Daisy Baker said.  “I said to them, ‘What are you doing to him? He’s not moving.'”

At one point, just minutes after the fight, one officer said: “I think we have a problem,” according to the police reports.

David Baker had no pulse.  

A doctor working inside University of Colorado Hospital declared David Baker dead less than an hour later.

Aurora Police said they plan on releasing the body camera footage early this week.

Living in his car at the time, David Baker showed up to his and his wife’s apartment the night of Dec. 17, 2018, in need of a shower, his wife said. A month earlier, Daisy Baker had asked for and received a temporary protection order against her husband.

The two married in 2012, but, starting in 2014, Daisy Baker said she started to notice a change in her husband.

He became depressed.  

“To me, when he didn’t want to go to work, I knew something was wrong with him, because that was not like him,” Daisy Baker said.

The Navy veteran sought help from Veterans Affairs.

“He told me, ‘What do I want to live for if I’m continually hurting my family by feeling this way?’,” Daisy Baker said. “I told him it’s not his fault.”

The first time he received help, he spent two days at the Colorado VA hospital.

In 2017, she said, he spent four months in the hospital.

“Recently, David had become more violent and Daisy has become increasingly afraid of him,” a police report said.

Despite that, on the night of Dec. 17, she said she let him in, but only if he agreed to leave after he showered.

After the shower, David Baker refused to leave. He grew increasingly agitated, Daisy Baker said.Her friend, at Daisy Baker’s request, called 911. Maria Ahumada also called her boyfriend, Daisy Baker’s brother, Johnny Guillen.

Guillen arrived before the police.

“My brother said, ‘C’mon David, let’s go outside. Let’s go.’ He’s like, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’” Daisy Baker said.

There was a fight.  Daisy Baker said her husband went for Guillen’s neck. That’s what three officers saw when they got to the apartment.

A neighbor started recording the interaction just outside the apartment on a cell phone. 9NEWS is choosing not to identify the neighbor due to their fear of retribution.

Officers worked to restrain David Baker following an altercation that Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz called one of the most violent he had ever seen.

The cell phone video shows three officers – two women and one man – fighting with David Baker. Daisy Baker can be heard screaming in the background.

The clip obtained by 9Wants to Know shows 36 seconds of a fight that began inside Baker’s apartment and ended, at least 10 minutes later, with a motionless David Baker on the ground.

“I was telling [David], ‘Stop! Stop!’” Daisy Baker said.

Two minutes after the three officers arrived, dispatch logs indicate the officers called for more help.

Within 11 minutes, another 22 officers responded, according to police reports.

In a report, one officer called David Baker, “Unstoppable.” Another called him “Raging Bull.”

One officer fired her Taser 11 times in a little more than four minutes.

Officers said they assumed David Baker was on drugs. The coroner found a relatively small amount of marijuana in his system.

Twelve minutes after police arrived on scene, one of the officers on top of Baker said he looked “unconscious.”

That’s when an officer said, according to the reports: “I think we have a problem.”

The day after David Baker’s death, Metz and District Attorney George Brauchler called a news conference to say, in part, the investigation would be transparent.

“We want to make sure we are providing the highest quality investigation and transparency,” Metz said.

Brauchler concurred.  

“[Chief Metz] picked up the phone and said, ‘Can we please treat this like an officer-involved shooting?’” Braucher said. “And we did that.”  

“It’s important that when someone dies in the community, especially during the contact with law enforcement, that we get all the answers the community would demand to have answers to,” Brauchler added.

Under Colorado law, officer-involved shootings must now involve a multi-agency investigative team. In the case of David Baker’s death, the Denver Police Department did assist in the investigation.

District attorneys in Colorado also routinely post so-called “Decision Letters” online when concluding potential criminal investigations into officer-involved shootings.

There was no “decision letter” posted online by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office after David Baker’s death.

Instead, two weeks after his office received the case, Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman authored a two-paragraph letter that said his office found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of any participating police officer.

The letter offered zero legal explanation for the conclusion.

In a written statement to 9Wants to Know, Orman explained: “We conducted a thorough review. In conducting our review, we examined all of the body-worn camera footage, recorded interviews and reports generated by the police investigation. After this thorough review, based on the facts, and the fact that the death was not the result of the police using a weapon of any kind, we determined that a short letter to the police was appropriate.”

A few months ago, the family of David Baker was allowed to see portions of the body camera recordings once.

Daisy Baker has retained well-known Denver law form Killmer, Lane and Newman as she considers any potential civil remedies.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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