DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver coroner is ruling the death of an inmate who died after an incident at the Denver Jail a homicide.
Michael Marshall, 50, was hospitalized on Nov. 11 after he became unresponsive when he was physically restrained by deputies. He died nine days later.
The coroner says Marshall died as a result of complications related to positional asphyxia, including getting pneumonia.
On Friday afternoon, Marshall’s friends and family gathered outside the jail to call for justice in his memory.
“The only allegation is that there was a struggle, there was a spit mask leading to his suffocation and death,” said Marshall family attorney Darrold Kilmer.
The incident happened four days after Marshall was arrested on suspicion of trespassing and disturbing the peace at a motel he had been staying at.
Six deputies from the Denver Sheriff Department were placed on restricted duty after the incident, but up until Friday it wasn’t clear why the officers had restrained Marshall.
The autopsy report obtained by CBS4 states that before the incident Marshall had been separated from other inmates while in custody. That was because “he presented aggressive behavior towards another inmate.”
Just after that Marshall stopped responding to commands from officers and tried to enter a restricted hallway, and the report states that he “became combative.” Officers then restrained him on the floor for several minutes and Marshall vomited. He continued to be combative so officers restrained his wrists and ankles. Marshall then went into cardiac arrest.
“Resuscitative measures were performed” on Marshall and he was taken to the hospital, according to the report. At the hospital it was determined Marshall was suffering from a brain injury, respiratory failure, pneumonia and other problems.
An attorney for Marshall’s family, Mari Newman, told CBS4 “We’re devastated and outraged by what we learned from the autopsy report.”
In March 2015, Denver Police Officer Chad Sinnema was disciplined for using a similar form of restraint that was used on Marshall because he “violated the departmental rules and regulations when he restrained the arrestee by placing his knee on the suspect’s neck.”
Denver’s Independent Monitor stated that “Restraining a suspect in a prone position with pressure on the back of the neck risks significant injury, including positional asphyxia.”
There is body camera video of that incident that was released.
There is pressure for the video in the Marshall case to be made public.
“We’re going to call for a hunger strike against this city until this video is released,” said one of the supporters for the Marshall family.
Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman told CBS 4 the family of the inmate who died will eventually be allowed to see the video of the incident, “We’ve committed to them to let them see the video it’s not in our possession now when we get it back from the DA once they finish their investigation we plan on sitting down with the Marshall family.”
Firman also discussed the department’s reform that have been taking place, “We are focusing on crisis intervention with our staff we’ve committed to putting personnel through the academy on an intensive 40 hour course.”
He said not all of the deputies involved in the incident with Marshall had undergone the training.
The Denver Sheriff Department also clarified that although the medical examiner declared Marshall’s death a homicide that is not a determination that a criminal act took place and that the district attorney will make that determination during its investigation.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office released this statement in regards to the coroner’s report: “The death of Michael Marshall is currently under review by the Denver District Attorney, who reviews in-custody death investigations. The District Attorney has been waiting for the autopsy report as part of the complete review of the facts of this case, and just received the report today.
Once the report is thoroughly reviewed, other evidence in the case will be evaluated in light of the information contained in the report. It is possible that the autopsy report will result in additional follow-up investigation.
It is important to note that the Medical Examiner’s designation of Mr. Marshall’s death as a “homicide” is not a determination that a criminal act took place. The District Attorney will make that determination at the conclusion of his investigation.”
Marshall’s niece Natalia says he suffered from schizophrenia.
“He would always go stay at a homeless shelter near a church because that was the only way he could control the voices in his head,” said Natalia.