DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Six Denver sheriff’s deputies were placed on restricted duty while authorities investigate an incident at the downtown jail involving an inmate who later died, the latest problem for a troubled agency trying to reform after a series of misconduct and excessive force allegations.
Authorities have refused to provide details about what led up to the death of Michael Marshall, 50, who was removed from life support Friday. The Nov. 11 incident happened in an entryway outside the jail pod where Marshall was housed.
He was arrested Nov. 7 for trespassing and disturbing the peace at a motel where he had been staying. His relatives are frustrated that investigators have offered them no information about what happened in the jail and won’t let them view video of the encounter, said Mari Newman, an attorney representing the family.
Marshall was severely mentally ill and homeless, preferring to live on the streets of Denver than with family, Newman said. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed just 130 pounds, court records show.
“It’s not right for this poor family to wonder what happened to their loved one,” she said.
Sheriff Patrick Firman, who was appointed last month, and other officials told reporters Tuesday that the city would conduct a thorough investigation into Marshall’s death. The deputies will have no contact with inmates during the inquiry, officials said.
“I’ve met with the Marshall family and I’ve reassured them that we’re committed to doing a thorough and a fair investigation,” Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman said on Tuesday. “We’re also committed to bringing them in as a result of the investigation and sitting down with them later and viewing the video and looking at the specifics of the investigation.”
The case comes a year after a federal jury awarded a record $4.65 million to the family of a homeless street preacher who died in the jail in 2010. Deputies shocked him with a stun gun while he was handcuffed, put him in a sleeper hold and lay on top of him, apparently in an effort to control him.
The department is trying to make sweeping reforms after that case and other excessive force allegations, which led to the sheriff’s resignation. A pair of national consulting firms produced a 300-page report pointing to a range of problems, including deputies’ use of force.
Marshall’s death is also the first test for Firman, a longtime Illinois corrections official who was chosen in October to head up to the roughly 890-member department that oversees Denver’s jails.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)