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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inmates say they witnessed man's death when jailers restrained, shocked him repeatedly - The Denver Post

Inmates say they witnessed man's death when jailers restrained, shocked him repeatedly - The Denver Post

Marvin Booker just wanted to get his shoes.

But deputies at the new Denver jail told him to stop. When Booker, who was being processed on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, didn't obey, he was held down, hit with electric shocks and then placed facedown in a holding cell, according to two inmates who watched it unfold.

Booker never got up. He was pronounced dead later that morning.

"I've never seen anything happen like that before in my life," said John Yedo, 54, who was being processed on a charge of destruction of property and said he witnessed the scene. "What I saw is not what you'd expect to see in America."

The two jail witnesses, who were both arrested in the early-morning hours of July 9 around the time Booker was being processed, were contacted and interviewed by The Denver Post separately. Both of them said they had not been questioned by police investigating the death of Booker, a homeless ordained minister who served the poor, but also a habitual criminal with a long string of arrests.

Capt. Frank Gale, spokesman for the jail, said he cannot comment on the ongoing investigation by the Denver Police Department and the Denver district attorney's office, and cannot confirm the inmates' accounts.

He said what happened at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility would have been recorded on videotape.

"If in fact what they are saying is true, it should be reflected in the video," Gale said.

District attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said she couldn't comment during the investigation, which could take several more weeks. The coroner's office is awaiting test results before completing the autopsy report and determining how Booker died, she said. In the meantime, the deputies involved in Booker's case are still on the job.

Yedo has had one prior arrest, in 1974 on a drug charge. Christopher Maten, 25, the other witness, was arrested in 2005 for public consumption of alcohol. Neither is a career criminal. The versions the two suspects tell are nearly identical.

"I can't breathe . . ."

Both say that Booker, 56, was asleep in a chair in a holding area of the jail when his name was called and he was ordered to a processing desk.

Half-asleep about 3 a.m., Booker walked to the desk in his socks, forgetting to put on his shoes. The female deputy ordered Booker to sit in a chair in front of the desk.

Booker responded that he wished to stand. When the deputy threatened to have him placed in a holding cell if he didn't sit, Booker told her he would go to the holding cell, said Maten, who had been arrested that morning for resisting arrest in a confrontation with a parking-meter attendant.

" 'Let me get my shoes,' " Maten quoted Booker as saying as he walked toward the chairs to get his shoes.

The deputy yelled at him repeatedly to stop, got up and followed Booker. Booker turned and repeated that he was getting his shoes, Maten said.

The deputy grabbed Booker by the arm and put a lock on him, Yedo said. Booker, who was 5 feet 5 and weighed 175 pounds, pushed her away. At that point, four other deputies wrestled Booker to the concrete floor. They slid down two steps to the floor in the sitting area. Yedo said the deputies each grabbed a limb while he struggled.

" 'Get the Taser. Get the Taser,' " Yedo quoted one of the deputies as saying.

Yedo said he was only about 3 feet away, and Maten said he was close enough that if he stood and took one step, he could reach out and touch one of the deputies.

None of the deputies involved in the restraint has been identified. One female deputy was treated at a hospital for an injury she suffered in the confrontation, Gale said.

A fifth deputy put Booker in a headlock just as the female deputy began shocking him with a Taser with encouragement from one of the deputies, who kept repeating, "Probe his ---," Maten said. He could hear the Taser crackle repeatedly.


Anonymous said...

It appears that the female deputy murdered a man with the help of other feputys who were holding the man down in front of two reliable witness'es. I hope there put on trial and also that the Colorado legislature bans the use of the taser by all police officers.djw

Anonymous said...

Another tool used to create an aura of empowerment, the taser, is being used abusively more frequently it seems. Perhaps each officer should be personally tased during training to "experience" the feeling. Then the described, "it doesn't hurt, it just stops" phrase will stop being applied to this abusively used

Anonymous said...

UNBELEIVABLE! How would you have liked this to be your relative? Pick on the trouble-makers, and leave the 'non-criminals' alone :(

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, djw. This is apparent murder. I can't comprehend why we should 'hope' for accountability, when it should be evident and done automatically. As law officers, nothing, and I do mean NOTHING gives them the right to violate the very laws they expect the citizens to follow. Most in law enforcement are to be commended. That certain few, as in this case, are criminals.

I can't begin to imagine the confusion and fear Mr. Booker felt while these abuses were taking place upon him.

My sympathies to everyone who knew Mr. Booker. He was a human being who deserved a far more self-controlled environment.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it is not just a few officers, it is the majority, with a small minority doing their job and not letting the power get to their heads. The very person, Gale Franklin, cited in this story threatened me with deadly force, along with two other officers when I questioned his handling of the Sheriff's office evidence room. I complained to the "independent" oversight person, who had one Franklin's fellow officers call him in order to have him lie about what happened and laugh it off.
Then they promoted him from an obscure sergeant to a Captain? How stupid can you run the department?

Anonymous said...

why in the world was Mr. Booker in the jail for a petty offense?

Anonymous said...

These police officers desperately need some education on non-violent confrontation...they are so quick to pull their weapons..what idiots, does it really take 5 officers to subdue a drunk...pathetic