Officers Fired Over LoDo Beating Case
DENVER (AP) – Two Denver police officers have been fired after their aggressive, videotaped arrest of a suspect prompted investigations and the resignation of the city’s safety manager, a city official said Friday.
Officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr were let go for their actions in the arrest of Michael DeHerrrera in April 2009 outside a downtown nightclub, new Denver Safety Manager Charles Garcia announced.
The release last year of a video showing DeHerrera being thrown to the ground and something being struck in the corner of the frame led to calls for the firing of former safety manager Ron Perea, who stepped down in August amid public outcry.
“It would have been my word against the cops and without a video, my word against them wasn’t worth a whole lot,” said DeHerrera, who attended the news conference where Garcia announced the firings. “Those two cops will never do what they did to me or anybody else. So what I went through was worth it.”
Garcia said both officers were fired for deceptive acts, and Sparks received additional discipline for use of excessive force.
Denver Police Protective Association attorney David Bruno did not immediately return a call. Sparks declined comment when reached by The Associated Press. There was no phone listing for Murr.
Garcia cited the possibility of an appeal and declined to discuss why his decision was different from one by Perea, who disciplined the officers for filing an inaccurate report about the incident and said no excessive force was used.
Denver’s independent police monitor, a post established in 2005 after a rash of fatal officer-involved shootings, said the two officers should have been fired rather than just suspended.
Interim Mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal said he had made it a priority to resolve police misconduct cases because the two years it can take “leaves a cloud on the way we’re deciding things and it brings questions to our outcome.”
Denver City Council members Doug Linkhart and Paul Lopez said they’ll explore ways to streamline the police discipline process that involves seven reviews, including supervisors, a citizens board, the monitor and the manager of safety.
Key to the firings was video from the police department’s own surveillance system. The video shows DeHerrera’s friend, Shawn Johnson, on the ground with officers around him, and DeHerrera watching and talking on a cell phone while gesturing.
An officer grabs DeHerrera and forces him to the street. The camera moves back, but a person in the corner of the frame can be seen repeatedly striking something.
In a lawsuit filed last year, DeHerrera said Johnson was tackled by an officer after an argument between Johnson and a nightclub bouncer spilled outside. DeHerrera said he was screaming for help and was slammed face first into the sidewalk by an officer trying to take him down.
One of the officers hit DeHerrera repeatedly with a piece of lead wrapped in leather, according to the lawsuit. DeHerrera was taken to the hospital and later to jail, according to the lawsuit that KMGH said was settled by each man for $15,500.
Assault, resisting arrest and other charges against the two were dropped.
DeHerrera’s father, Anthony, a 23-year veteran of the Pueblo County sheriff’s office, said he’d like charges filed against the officer in the video. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said no charges will be filed.
Morrissey’s office reviewed the case in 2009 and again last year when Denver police reopened their investigation, and found no basis for charges, Kimbrough said.
– By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)