Body cam

A screenshot from officer-worn body camera footage from Michael Francisco’s Dec. 24 arrest. Francisco was ringing up items in Carbondale City Market’s self-checkout line when officers notified him that a manager wanted him removed for allegedly grimacing and pointing at an employee in the market’s accompanying fuel station.

Body camera footage from Michael Francisco’s arrest in the Carbondale City Market on Christmas Eve last year shows just how quickly the controversial incident escalated.

Roughly 35 seconds after Carbondale police officers first verbally engage with Francisco in the store’s self-checkout line, they move in and attempt to restrain the Black man after he refuses to produce his ID.

“We were contacted by the manager of the store. She doesn’t want you here,” one officer says to Francisco, who appears confused. “She said you were causing problems over at the gas station.”

As officers repeatedly ask for Francisco’s identification, Francisco replies, “What are you talking about?” and “For what?”

Colorado statute specifies that a peace officer “may stop any person who he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime and may require him to give his name and address, identification if available, and an explanation of his actions.”

Officers then make physical contact with Francisco, who can be heard saying on the tapes, “go get the manager” and “I’m resisting because I didn’t do anything … get off me please.”

As officers move to get Francisco to the floor of the store — repeatedly telling him to stop resisting — his tone also escalated: “Get the f--- off me!”

Officers struggle to bring Francisco to the floor and eventually handcuff him in the self-checkout line. When Francisco asks what he is being arrested for, one officer can be heard saying, “It doesn’t matter to us.”

“It should matter…” Francisco replies. “You’ve got the wrong person.”

One officer then explains that the City Market is private property, and that the police had been informed that management wanted Francisco removed from the premises.

Francisco allegedly pointed and grimaced at an employee in the market’s accompanying fuel area, leading to the incident that has garnered significant community attention.

While handcuffed, face down on City Market’s floor, officers remove Francisco’s cap, a religious symbol, and search him as other shoppers look on. The same state statute also dictates that a peace officer “may conduct a pat-down search of that person for weapons.”

Francisco informs officers that he is an employee of City Market in Aspen and that he is going to sue.

Francisco is later put into a police vehicle outside of city market as officers collect a statement from the manager who asked to have Francisco removed. Officers can be heard discussing among themselves what charges Francisco should face, including potentially trespassing and resisting arrest.

“What else?” one asks another.

“Is obstructing the same [as ­resisting]?” the other replies.

Citing an ongoing investigation, the Carbondale Police Department declined to release officer worn body camera footage until months after the Christmas Eve incident. The Carbondale Police Department charged $40 to publicly release the footage, which Police Chief Kirk Wilson also said had to be redacted by a neighboring police agency using editing software the town did not have.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. So, I wanted to solve it right there at that moment,” Francisco said following his Carbondale Municipal Court hearing on April 26. “I didn’t want to be embarrassed or handcuffed.”

Francisco faces three charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing government operations — all misdemeanors — and has repeatedly maintained his innocence.

In an email Sunday, Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson said he viewed the body camera footage from Francisco’s arrest after it was made available to the public.

“Regarding board engagement in the case, my opinion remains that it is inappropriate for us to get involved in a judicial matter,” Richardson said in the email.

The Carbondale Police Department, for its part, is conducting an internal investigation of the arrest and is voluntarily pursuing additional racial sensitivity training, both Richardson and Wilson have said.

Francisco’s next municipal court has been set for May 24.

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com