By Rick Sallinger
DENVER (CBS4) – Two Denver sheriff’s deputies and a watch commander have received suspensions for 10-16 days in connection with the November 2015 death of a man at the Downtown Detention Center.
A mentally ill homeless man, Michael Marshall, got up from a bench and tried to make his way past a deputy into a sallyport. He was pushed away against the wall as more deputies converged on him. Marshall vomited, passed out, a pulse was detected and he was transported to a hospital where he died nine days later.
Lawyer Darold Killmer representing Marshall’s family hailed the city’s finding of wrongdoing by its personnel.
“They went down on top of him and what followed was an extended physical brutal restraint which led directly to his death,” Killmer said.
The city found that the deputies should have used lesser force in the case. But attorney Don Sisson for two of the sheriff’s personnel receiving suspensions say they should not have been disciplined at all.
“I think that it’s politically motivated and it gets being done to appease the family,” Sisson said.
He pointed out that the deputies and watch commander did not throw any punches, kick or Taze Marshall. But family members of Marshall like his niece Natalie do not think the punishment goes nearly far enough.
“Ten to 16 days and they tortured, they tortured my uncle,” she told reporters gathered outside the Downtown Detention Center where Marshall was being held.
Marshall had been arrested for trespassing and was being held on a $100 bond.
Lawyers for the family pointed to other jail incidents. Street preacher Marvin Booker‘s death in custody brought a $6 million settlement by the city. Jamal Hunter‘s beating brought a $3.25 million settlement. Emily Rice died in the county jail. Her family was given $7 million.
The Sheriff Department acknowledged it must always assess how it approaches mental health considerations in the jails. The Marshall death case in point.
“In general there’s a sense of relief that we’re able at least to put some closure to this chapter of it,” Sheriff Patrick Firman told CBS4’s Brian Maass.
But for Marshall’s family, no admission of wrongdoing will bring their loved one back.
They have not filed a lawsuit yet, but Killmer indicated if the city does not come forward first a civil rights complaint is very possible.