AURORA | The widow of a man who died shortly after a violent melee with Aurora police two years ago has sued the City of Aurora claiming officers violated her husband’s constitutional rights and negligently caused his death.
As reported by The Denver Post, attorneys for Daisy Baker on Wednesday filed the wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city and a handful of unnamed Aurora police officers on behalf of the estate of her late husband, David Baker.
David Baker, 32, died after a lengthy hand-to-hand fight with Aurora police outside of his home at the Willowick Apartments on Dec. 17, 2018. When officers first responded to the complex on East Jewell Avenue, investigators said they found him “violently choking another male,” former police chief Nick Metz said in a video released several months after the incident.
Police then spent several minutes punching and striking Baker with their batons in an effort to subdue him. He was also struck by nearly a dozen Tasers during the scuffle.
Police were eventually able to restrain Baker using four sets of handcuffs linked together. In the body cam footage, officers discuss using a hobble — a device used to restrain people at the waist and feet — but never actually apply one to Baker’s body, according to Metz.
Baker was declared dead at a local hospital about an hour after he was placed into custody. He died of “restraint asphyxia,” according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office. Despite claims from police that Baker was “on something” during the fight, toxicology reports found only marijuana in Baker’s system.
The coroner ruled Baker’s death a homicide. The local district attorneys office announced prosecutors would not seek any criminal charges against police involved in Baker’s arrest about three months after the encounter.
Daisy Baker’s attorneys — one of whom is based in Arvada and the other in New York — asked the court for a federal jury rial and to award the widow unspecified damages for “the physical and mental pain and suffering” police inflicted upon David, according to the complaint.
The suit alleges improper training from the city led to Baker’s wrongful death and a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
“The strangulation of a handcuffed person was unnecessary, an instance of excessive force and unwarranted by any legitimate law enforcement purpose; (Baker) had already been subdued and was under the control of law enforcement, making its use barbaric and wanton,” attorneys wrote in the suit.
A spokesman for the city said city attorneys are aware of the suit but have yet to review it.
“The city of Aurora is aware of the lawsuit that has been filed, but the City Attorney’s Office has not yet had an opportunity to analyze it and therefore cannot comment on its contents,” City Spokesman Michael Bryant wrote in an email. “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, called ‘A New Way.’”
The complaint penned on behalf of Baker’s estate was filed a day before the ACLU of Colorado announced it had settled with the city for $285,000 in October in another excessive force lawsuit.