Aurora police sued for unconstitutional use of drive in David Baker’s loss of life in 2018
Family photo via Attorney Mari Newman
The widow of a man who was suffocated by Aurora police sued the department because the officers’ tactics were cruel and unconstitutional.
David Baker’s widow, Daisy Baker, filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alleging that officers had not de-escalated the situation, used a “barbaric and wanton” stranglehold on her husband, and that Aurora Police Department had not done enough done to train their officials.
“There were opportunities for the violence to de-escalate, not escalate,” said Michael Sussman, one of the family’s lawyers.
David Baker, 32, died on December 17, 2018 after an extended and brutal fight with Aurora police officers who responded to his family’s home after his family called 911 to report he threatened them. Baker and the answering officers fought for over seven minutes. During that time, officers used tasers on him nearly a dozen times.
Baker, who was unarmed, died on the concrete walkway in front of the apartment after several officers piled on him and hobbled him face down. The Arapahoe County coroner determined the death was a homicide caused by the risk of suffocation – he was unable to breathe due to his positioning.
“The defendant city of Aurora has not punished or sanctioned those who used this excessive violence against the deceased, adding to the long-standing tolerance of the Aurora City Police Department of excessive violence, particularly against people of color,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that police officers should not have suffocated Baker and that officers should have tried to de-escalate the situation before contacting Baker.
“As a result of the death of the deceased, the plaintiff and her children were denied camaraderie and guidance, as well as financial support and assistance,” the lawsuit said. “Because of the significant and substantial excessive violence against him, the deceased suffered both physical pain and severe emotional distress and anxiety.”
Baker’s family later told investigators that the U.S. Navy veteran had depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. The family continues to mourn Baker, Sussman said.
“There is obviously a void in relation to the children that is difficult to replace,” he said.
An Aurora spokesman said the city was aware of the lawsuit, but city lawyers had not yet analyzed the lawsuit.
“Regardless of legal filing, the Aurora Police Department remains committed to reviewing its practices and procedures to provide the best possible service to our residents, and new Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has put in place a plan to restore public confidence in the department,” said the spokesman Michael Bryant said in a statement.