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Denver DA Disappointed With Homicide Declaration In Zoo Death Report

DENVER (CBS4)– Prosecutors won’t file charges in the death of a man who died after scuffling with police and security guards at the Denver Zoo.

The coroner classified his death as a homicide, which Denver’s District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is not happy about.

“To use that, that’s a flash term, that makes people angry,” said Morrissey.

On July 18, police in Denver were called to the zoo on reports of a man, Alonzo Ashley, who was exhibiting bizarre behavior and had attacked and bit a zoo employee.

“It says in black and white, homicide,” said Ashley’s brother Lindell Ashley.

For three months, Ashley’s family has argued police killed the 29-year-old man when officers tried to restrain him at the Denver Zoo.

alonzo ashley4 Denver DA Disappointed With Homicide Declaration In Zoo Death Report

Alonzo Ashley (credit: CBS)

The coroner’s report does characterize Ashely’s death a homicide, but the coroner calls it a “medical judgement.” He states it is not meant to suggest there was intent to harm or use excessive force or legal culpability, but that it is a homicide.

The DA is not filing criminal charges in the case, either against the zoo security guard or the witnesses that got involved or the eight Denver Police officers.

“All of those people acted in a reasonable and justified way with restraint to try to control this man,” said Morrissey.

The coroner’s report states Ashley died from cardio respiratory arrest and no sudden death. There were minor blunt force injuries that could have been contributed to the scuffle with security and police beforehand. Toxicology results found Ashley had marijuana in his system, but no other drugs.

“The appropriate classification is that “undetermined” should be the classification he uses here,” said Morrissey.

Morrissey suggests the coroner made his classification based on a guide from the National Association of Medical Examiners where it states if law enforcement uses restraint, a homicide classification can be used to reduce public perception of a cover up.

“He should be making a homicide determination based on what he finds in the autopsy based on what he understands the facts to be, not to impact public perception,” said Morrissey.

CBS4 attempted to contact Dr. John Carver with the Medical Examiner’s Office several times Friday afternoon regarding an explanation. The office closed at 4 p.m. and Carver did not return any calls.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the police department will conduct an internal investigation with a final review by the Denver Manager of Safety.

  • Ed

    DA = Police! No difference!

  • murmur55

    NEVER trust the police or DAs. They are manipulating the public to “awfulize the victim” by making it seem like he was under the influence of illicit drugs, was psychiatrically ill, or extremely violent. He was apparently delirious and should have been allowed ad lib access to water and freedom to move around so that he could cool off. The police are so poorly trained and caught up in their own importance that they think they have a right to interfere with basic life-enhancing actions. This is why understanding the consequences of restraint is so critical: people will naturally seek out solutions to maintain homeostasis. Examples include repositioning the body to be able to breathe better, taking clothing off if overheating, drinking and using water if experiencing heat stroke. There is no such thing as “excited delirium”: this term is used to hide the extraordinary struggle that occurs when weight is placed on the chest wall interfering with ventilation of the lungs in order to reverse severe air hunger and the need to blow off co2.

    Even if Mr. Alonzo Ashley was suffering from the above “bad” conditions, there is still NO excuse not to perform a proper restraint that does not cause suffocation or cardiac arrest. One should only restrain or arrest someone if there is adequate personnel; there should be no dropping onto the chest which can cause commotio cordis; the prone restraint position should be avoided as much as possible, there should be ABSOLUTELY no pressure placed on the chest wall which causes suffocation.

    Google: “death in custody” with or without Taser use and you will find multiple examples of restraint asphyxia.

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