Many of the highest-profile examples of Aurora police involved in misconduct and controversy — which have turned Aurora into the nexus of Colorado’s police reform debate — are absent from the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training database.
For some Aurora Police Department cops whose misconduct doesn’t appear in the database, it’s simply a matter of their behavior predating the board’s reporting period of 2022 and forward. For others, investigative failures and unprosecuted criminal conduct mean their publicly-visible disciplinary records don’t reflect their misbehavior, which has damaged the public’s trust in APD.
In March 2019, Aurora police officer Nate Meier made national headlines when first responders dragged him — drunk and unconscious — out of his unmarked police vehicle, which was stalled on a busy road.
The department decided not to investigate the incident as a crime, even though one responding officer commented on Meier being “a little intoxicated,” and Meier admitted to blacking out while drinking vodka earlier in the day.
District Attorney George Brauchler said the failure by police to investigate Meier meant his office did not have enough evidence to prosecute him for drunken driving. Meier was suspended and demoted but kept his job and earned a promotion to the rank of agent earlier this year.
Even the most passionate defenders of the department have expressed discomfort when asked about Meier’s employment status. Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky — who was endorsed by both of Aurora’s police unions during her run for office in 2021 — said earlier this year that she was “never going to stand up for an officer like Nate Meier.”
But since Meier was never decertified, and since his on-duty drunkenness in 2019 happened prior to POST launching its database in 2022, his POST profile only says that he is a certified peace officer employed by the Aurora Police Department with no reportable disciplinary actions to his name.
Another pair of Aurora cops with deceptively clean POST profiles, John Haubert and Francine Martinez, were criminally charged in 2021 after Haubert pistol-whipped and strangled a man suspected of trespassing while Martinez stood by and watched without intervening.
Haubert had been on the force for about three years and was hired despite pleading guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge in a 2009 case in which felony charges of menacing and DUI were dropped.
In 2021, Haubert and Martinez confronted three men who were later found to have warrants for their arrest. Two of the men fled on foot. The third, Kyle Vinson, remained sitting on the ground. Body-worn camera footage shows Haubert then pushed Vinson onto his back and ordered him to roll onto his stomach. Vinson hesitated, and Haubert aimed his gun at him.
Vinson was unarmed and did not attempt to flee or attack Haubert or Martinez during the encounter. When Vinson rolled over, Haubert pushed Vinson’s face into the ground and pressed his gun into the back of Vinson’s head.
While being handcuffed, Vinson tried to lift himself off the ground. Haubert grabbed Vinson by the back of the neck and pushed the barrel of his pistol into Vinson’s throat while yelling at him to roll back onto his stomach. Haubert then struck Vinson in the face multiple times with his pistol and strangled Vinson on the ground for more than half a minute while threatening to shoot him as Vincent cried and begged not to be shot.
Vinson was hospitalized after the violent arrest and had to receive stitches for his head wounds. Haubert told a police sergeant immediately after the incident, “I was going to shoot him, but I didn’t know if I had a round in it or not.”
At a news conference, then-chief Vanessa Wilson called Haubert’s actions “very despicable” and said his behavior was “not police work.” A few days after the incident, he was charged with felony menacing — the same charge he’d avoided in 2009 — and assault, along with official oppression and official misconduct. Haubert’s trial is scheduled to begin in January.
For standing by and watching, Martinez was charged and found guilty of failing to intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force. While Martinez’s lawyers say she has since lost her POST certification, this fact is not reflected in the POST database, which also shows nothing about Haubert’s pending felony case.
Aurora’s interim police chief, Art Acevedo, declined through a spokesman to talk about current POST reporting rules and how they allow for the omission of pre-2022 incidents of misconduct from officers’ profiles in the statewide database. The spokesman referred questions to POST.
Aurora’s Police Department currently employs about 640 POST-certified officers. As of Oct. 17, only 13 current and former Aurora officers show up in POST’s database as having experienced some kind of disciplinary event or action:
Edward Acuti — June 26, 2022, credibility report for demonstrated bias. — Acuti was demoted in 2022 after a series of six incidents when he yelled at, threatened and generally escalated interactions with members of the public. During one incident, when the Black occupants of a car were removed from their vehicle during a traffic stop and said they were afraid of the police, Acuti told them to “just keep breathing.” In a letter upholding Acuti’s demotion, Aurora’s Civil Service Commission described this as “an undeniable and indefensible reference to the George Floyd shooting, the death of Elijah McClain, and other incidents between police and citizens resulting in the deaths of Black individuals.” Acuti also threatened the officer who reported his behavior to a lieutenant. Acuti was no longer employed by the Aurora Police Department as of October. According to the POST database, he remains POST certified.
Roland Albert — March 27, 2020, decertification — Albert pleaded guilty to felony theft in 2019 after stealing tens of thousands of dollars from police charities that had been set up to pay for flights to the funerals of slain cops and also support the families of officers who were killed or injured in the line of duty. Albert served as treasurer for the groups he victimized, Brotherhood for the Fallen Aurora and the Aurora Police Orphan Fund, and embezzled the funds between 2017 and 2018. He resigned after police officials became aware of the theft. While Albert’s POST profile includes a decertification action and indicates that he is no longer employed by any police department, his certification status is listed as “CERTIFIED.”
Martin Garland — Jan. 4, 2022, credibility report for lying or knowingly withholding information — Garland crashed a city vehicle into something after drinking beer and was “inconsistent, incomplete and untruthful” in his recounting of events to internal affairs investigators after the fact, according to police. He also waited until the following morning to report the crash, and so police were unable to test his blood-alcohol level. Garland resigned in lieu of termination in December 2021. According to his POST profile, he is not employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency, though he remains POST certified.
Douglas Harroun — Jan. 12, 2023, being the subject of a criminal investigation; Jan. 25, 2023, credibility report for being under a criminal or administrative investigation; Jan. 30, 2023, resigned while under investigation; June 15, 2023, being the subject of a criminal investigation — Harroun was charged with assault in January after an incident when he allegedly attacked a disabled woman, punching her in the head multiple times. He was off-duty and had been placed on administrative leave at the time for shooting a bystander in the leg while responding to a domestic violence incident several days earlier. Harroun was charged in connection with the officer-involved shooting in June. Both cases are pending. He resigned from the Aurora Police Department in January. For the time being, he remains POST certified.
Eduardo Landeros — March 17, 2023, being the subject of a criminal investigation; June 21, 2023, credibility report for being charged with or convicted of a crime or policy violation involving dishonesty — Landeros pleaded guilty in August to a felony charge of criminally-negligent homicide after crashing his police vehicle into another car, killing the occupant. Investigators say Landeros was driving more than 100 mph at the time without having activated his lights or siren while responding to a non-emergent burglary call. Landeros resigned from the Aurora Police Department in April. For now, he remains POST certified.
Robert Lyons — March 11, 2022, decertification — Lyons left work early nine times without getting authorization and failed to work about 34 hours between August and September 2020. When confronted by a supervisor, he lied and said he had not taken that time off. He admitted to lying when he was interviewed by internal affairs investigators. Lyons was fired in February 2021 for time theft and lying. His POST profile indicates he was decertified in March 2022, although his certification status is still listed as “CERTIFIED.”
Michael Mangino — March 1, 2013, decertification — Mangino was charged with multiple felonies after police found sexually explicit images on his cellphone of a 15-year-old girl he had arrested in 2011. He was working as a DARE officer at local schools at the time. Mangino resigned after the photos were discovered. He pleaded guilty to felony exploitation of a child in 2012 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a suspended three-year prison sentence. Mangino was decertified in 2013, as indicated by his profile in the POST database.
Todd McCarl — Dec. 9, 2005, decertification — McCarl’s POST profile indicates that he was decertified in 2005 and is no longer employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency. The decertification action was associated with a harassment case, and court records indicate that McCarl pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment involving physical contact in August 2005. In response to a Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act request, an Aurora Police Department representative said the agency does not have any publicly-releasable personnel documents concerning McCarl.
Patricia Perea — June 21, 2023, credibility report for being charged with or convicted of a crime or policy violation involving dishonesty; Sept. 8, 2023, decertification — Perea completed reports saying she had submitted criminal case filings to the district attorney’s office, while she in fact had not, according to internal affairs records. She was found to have violated several department policies earlier this year and resigned before she could be disciplined. Perea’s POST profile indicates that she was decertified in September and is no longer employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency.
Morgan Sellman — March 1, 2013, decertification — Sellman resigned shortly after his arrest in December 2010 for possessing hundreds of digital files of child pornography, which depicted the abuse of children as young as 2 years old. He served in an administrative role for the department’s DARE program and formerly worked as a DARE officer in schools, though police said they found no evidence of Sellman personally having inappropriate contact with children. Sellman pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in 2012 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 10 years of intensive sex offender probation. He was decertified in 2013, according to his POST profile.
Leland Silver — Dec. 7, 2018, decertification — Silver accessed a secure law enforcement database to help his girlfriend get a job by looking up another woman with the same name. He queried the woman’s Social Security number and date of birth so his girlfriend could use them to apply for a job without having to explain her own criminal record. Silver’s girlfriend did not use the information and reported his behavior to the police. He was fired, convicted of official misconduct in 2018 and decertified, though his certification status is still listed as “CERTIFIED” in his POST profile.
Julie Stahnke — May 1, 2023, resignation in lieu of termination for cause; June 2, 2023, credibility report for being charged with or convicted of a crime or policy violation involving dishonesty; Sept. 8, 2023, decertification — Stahnke was accused of domestic violence toward her then-wife in November 2021. She was arrested, briefly jailed and presented with a restraining order that required her to stay away from her wife and her wife’s home. Soon after, she and an Aurora police commander, Cassidee Carlson, drove back to the home to retrieve Stahnke’s truck. Stahnke’s ex-wife saw Stahnke and the commander, and called the police. The original domestic violence case against Stahnke was dropped, but she was found guilty of violating a restraining order in 2022 and resigned from the Aurora Police Department before she could be fired. Stahnke was decertified in 2023.
Douglas Wilkinson — Feb. 3, 2022, termination for cause; April 26, 2022, credibility report for demonstrated bias — Wilkinson was serving as the president of one of Aurora’s two police unions, the Aurora Police Association, when he sent an email to union members mocking the diversity component of the city’s consent decree with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The 2021 email said the decree was created in part to force out white male police officers and replace them with females and minorities. Wilkinson also said the city might as well “hire 10% illegal aliens, 50% weed smokers, 10% crackheads, and a few child molesters and murderers to round it out. You know, so we can make the department look like the ‘community.’” He was fired for his remarks in 2022, a decision that was later upheld by Aurora’s Civil Service Commission. Wilkinson’s POST profile indicates that he is not currently employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency. He remains POST certified.
Not on the POST database
Through its “In the Blue” investigative series and years of accountability reporting, the Sentinel has learned of numerous other officers whose behavior has invited everything from public scrutiny to criminal investigations — but not inclusion in the POST database. That means records of their misconduct aren’t readily available to police departments and sheriff’s offices that may be considering hiring them:
Cassidee Carlson — Carlson participated in the incident that led to Julie Stahnke’s decertification in 2021 (see above), driving Stahnke to Stahnke’s wife’s house, even though a restraining order had been put in place barring Stahnke from the immediate area of the residence. The judge who presided over Stahnke’s bench trial reprimanded Carlson for her behavior, describing it as “troubling.” Carlson was investigated by the Aurora Police Department for policy violations, but then-interim police chief Dan Oates set aside the finding that Carlson had violated department policy and promoted her to the rank of division chief in 2022. She has since retired from APD.
Darian Dasko and Madisen Moen — Dasko and Moen ordered a Black woman and her passengers — four girls aged 17, 14, 12 and 6 — to exit their SUV at gunpoint and made them lie on the hot pavement of a parking lot after mistakenly identifying their vehicle as stolen in 2020. The incident ratcheted up local and national scrutiny of the Aurora Police Department, with then-chief Vanessa Wilson saying in a statement that she was “angry and disgusted” by what had happened. Dasko was suspended from his job for 160 hours and removed from his position as a field training officer. An APD staff roster that the department shared with the Sentinel earlier this year indicated Dasko was still employed by the department. Moen changed her last name to Burdzinski following the incident and appears under that name on the roster, and her POST profile indicates she is still employed by APD.
Charles DeShazer — DeShazer was fired after referring to a group of Black residents as “Alabama porch monkeys” in 2017. His firing was overturned, and he was reinstated by the Aurora Civil Service commission in 2018. DeShazer had previously been accused of using a racial slur while arresting a Black woman and her daughter in 2006, and the woman subsequently received $175,000 in a settlement with the city. DeShazer’s POST profile indicates that he is currently certified but is no longer employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency.
Kyle Dittrich, Jaron Jones and Erica Marrero — Dittrich and Marrero were fired and Jones resigned in 2020 after department leaders learned of a photograph the group had taken re-enacting the chokehold that officers performed on Elijah McClain two months after the 23-year-old’s death. The photo was taken near McClain’s memorial. The group sent the photo to two of the officers who confronted McClain, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard, to which Rosenblatt replied, “ha ha.” National and international news outlets reported on this development in the McClain case. Then-Chief Vanessa Wilson called a news conference after she was made aware of the photos and denounced the officers’ actions as a “crime against humanity and decency,” adding that “to even think about doing such a thing is beyond comprehension, and it is reprehensible.” The POST profiles for Dittrich and Jones indicate they are not currently certified and do not work for any Colorado law enforcement agency. No information about Marrero is available in the database.
Matthew Green — Green threatened Elijah McClain with a police dog while the 23-year-old was pinned on the ground in 2019, saying, “If you keep messing around, I’m gonna bring my dog out, and he’s gonna dog-bite you.” An independent panel that the city convened to review McClain’s fatal encounter with police wrote in a report that McClain did not appear to be resisting at the time. According to the same report, Green was disciplined and removed from the department’s canine unit following the incident. Green eventually resigned, but applied for reinstatement and was rehired earlier this year.
Michael Hawkins — Hawkins body-slammed and stomped on a woman who got into an argument with him after she drove her boyfriend — who was suffering from a gunshot wound — to an urgent care clinic in 2015. The woman was arrested and charged with assault, though the case was later dismissed, and she subsequently won a $335,000 settlement from the city in 2018. Hawkins retired the same year.
Levi Huffine — Huffine was fired after doing nothing to help a woman who was hobbled, inverted and pleading for help in the back of his cruiser in 2019. “During transport, (Huffine) blatantly disregarded Ms. Kelly’s safety and security,” a report by the city’s Civil Service Commission found. “(Huffine) admitted that, because she was hobbled, Ms. Kelly was likely to end up on the floorboard. He admitted he heard her cries for help and screams that she could not breathe and that she thought her neck would break. (Huffine) chose to ignore Ms. Kelly’s outcries because he felt she was ‘just another drunk.’”
Jeffrey Longnecker — A judge ruled that Longnecker breached a criminal suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights when he searched him without probable cause after a 2017 car crash. APD didn’t discipline Longnecker for the infringement and did not tell him about it for at least seven months. Longnecker has been named as a defendant in at least four civil rights lawsuits. None of those lawsuits triggered investigations into his behavior by the department, according to his disciplinary records.
Ryan Marker — Records show that, in 2017, Marker pulled over a drunk woman whose breath alcohol was more than twice the limit for DUI, but turned off his body camera, gave her a ride home and didn’t charge her because she claimed she was friends with the police chief. He was found to have broken department policy for giving preferential treatment to the woman, but records show he received no discipline. In another case, APD paid a $35,000 civil settlement to a disabled man whom Marker and a fellow officer threw to the ground during an arrest for which they had no warrant.
Matthew Neely and Paul Timmons — Both officers were found by an Arapahoe County District Court judge in 2019 to have unlawfully detained a man in a burglary case and given testimony about the incident that was not credible. Timmons is still employed by the Aurora Police Department, while Neely is no longer employed by any Colorado law enforcement agency, according to the state’s POST database.
Jordan Odneal — Odneal was fired in 2020 for saying that overtime pay had been approved by his supervisor when it wasn’t. He had a history of falsifying reports and other problems. In 2019, his peers found he had failed to help or file a report for a woman who claimed she had been scammed and threatened. The woman violently arrested by Michael Hawkins (see above) also named Odneal and another officer in her lawsuit against the city, saying they had falsified documents that led to her being arrested. Prosecutors dropped the charges against the woman, and she settled with the city for $335,000.
William Oxford — In February of this year, police announced that Oxford was under investigation for an August 2022 incident in which he threw a handcuffed man to the ground, causing the man to bleed, while escorting him out of the Medical Center of Aurora. Video from a body-worn camera shows Oxford telling Alessandro Torres-Encinas to “stop resisting,” placing his right hand behind his neck and shoving him so the side of Torres-Encinas’ face slammed into the floor. The police department indicated Oxford was removed from enforcement duties in February and would remain in that position until the conclusion of criminal and internal investigations. While Oxford’s POST profile indicated that he was being criminally investigated earlier this year, the profile no longer includes this note. He is also no longer employed in law enforcement, according to POST.
David Sandoval — A woman Sandoval previously had been romantically involved with complained he had been stalking and harassing her after using police databases to research her contact information and make repeated unwanted contact, both in text messages and in person, between 2016 and 2018. A 33-page report by investigators in the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Sandoval should be charged with crimes of harassment and domestic violence. Yet, after reviewing the case chronicling more than 100 text messages and calls from Sandoval to the woman over the course of four months, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Sandoval, claiming there was not sufficient evidence. According to an APD internal affairs investigation completed in March 2019, Sandoval admitted to using a police database to find the woman’s home address, a violation of Colorado law. APD punished Sandoval with a 240-hour unpaid suspension. As of March 2023, Sandoval was still a sergeant with the agency and led one of the department’s Direct Action Response Teams, according to department spokesperson Faith Goodrich.