The Denver Post
It has been a week and a half since Marvin Booker died in Denver's jail.
The city continues denying access to videotape that could show whether sheriff's deputies used excessive force that may have led to his death.
In memory of the homeless pastor who served the poor — and for the sake of inmates under the watch of officers who remain on-duty while the case is being investigated — his family is demanding the footage.
"My brother's dead, and we just want to see what happened," says the Rev. Spencer Booker, who helped bury his brother Friday. "What does Denver have to hide?"
As my colleague Kirk Mitchell has reported, two witnesses say deputies had wrestled Booker to a concrete floor in the jail's booking area and shocked him with a Taser when he cried out that he couldn't breathe. One of the witnesses says Booker — who stood 5 feet 5 and weighed 175 pounds — then went limp.
After placing him in a holding cell without checking his pulse, a witness told Mitchell, "the deputies walked away high-fiving and laughing."
Mayor John Hickenlooper hasn't commented on the case or on why the deputies are working while it's being probed, though his office released a letter promising a "thorough review of the matter."
The Denver Sheriff Department takes umbrage with speculation about whether its staff may have killed an inmate.
"I'm a little concerned that there seems to be an implication these officers
caused the death of Mr. Booker," says spokesman Frank Gale. In the weeks it will take for an autopsy report, the videotape could help clear things up. I'm getting the runaround about who's keeping it from going public.
The Sheriff Department says it won't release the footage because the district attorney is investigating. The DA's office tells me that, though it's participating, the police homicide unit is leading the inquiry. Police, for their part, referred me to the Safety Department, which, in turn, says the tape can't be released because it would impede the investigation.
"The city instinctively circles the wagons and slams the doors," says Darold Killmer, an attorney for Booker's family. "There's a legitimate concern that Marvin was actually murdered. Lots of people are interested in seeing what happened. It doesn't give us a lot of confidence in the system when the city is trying to sweep this under the rug with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo."
It seemed odd, too, that when asked for the videotape, the Sheriff Department said its computerized surveillance system wouldn't be able to reproduce it.
The Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility where Booker died is a brand-new, $158 million facility that the city has touted for its state-of-the-art surveillance. In this case, I wonder how comfortable deputies feel about appearing on their own cameras.
Watchdogs are planning a vigil for Booker at 6 p.m. today at the main entrance to the jail.