The widow of a man suffocated by Aurora police sued the department alleging the officers’ tactics were cruel and unconstitutional.
David Baker’s widow, Daisy Baker, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court alleging the officers failed to de-escalate the situation, used a “barbaric and wanton” chokehold against her husband and that the Aurora Police Department has not done enough to train its officers.
“There were opportunities for de-escalation to occur and rather than that there was escalation of force,” said Michael Sussman, one of the family’s attorneys.
David Baker, 32, died Dec. 17, 2018, after an extensive and brutal fight with Aurora police officers who responded to his family’s apartment after his family called 911 to report he was threatening them. Baker and the responding officers fought for more than seven minutes, during which time the officers used Tasers on him nearly a dozen times.
Baker, who was unarmed, died on the concrete landing outside the apartment after multiple officers piled on top of him and left him hobbled facedown. The Arapahoe County coroner determined the death was a homicide caused by restraint asphyxia — he couldn’t breathe because of the way he was positioned.
“Defendant City of Aurora did not punish or sanction those who engaged in this excessive force against the decedent, reinforcing the longstanding tolerance of excessive force by the City of Aurora Police Department, particularly against persons of color,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges the police officers should not have used a chokehold on Baker and that the officers should have tried to de-escalate the situation before going hands-on with Baker.
“As a result of decedent’s death, plaintiff and her children have been denied both of his companionship and guidance and his pecuniary support and assistance,” the lawsuit states. “By dint of the significant and substantial excessive force used against him, decedent suffered both physical pain and severe emotional distress and anguish.”
Baker’s family later told investigators that the U.S. Navy veteran had had depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD. The family continues to grieve Baker’s death, Sussman said.
“There’s obviously a void in regard to the children that’s hard to replace,” he said.
A spokesman for Aurora said the city was aware of the lawsuit but city attorneys had not yet analyzed the suit.
“Regardless of any legal filings, the Aurora Police Department remains committed to ongoing reviews of its practices and procedures to offer the best service to our residents, and new police Chief Vanessa Wilson has undertaken a plan to restore public trust in the department,” spokesman Michael Bryant said in a statement.
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