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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Son's beating by Denver police stuns Pueblo sheriff's deputy - The Denver Post

Son's beating by Denver police stuns Pueblo sheriff's deputy - The Denver Post

For 22 years, Anthony DeHerrera wore his law-enforcement uniform with pride.

The last thing the Pueblo sheriff's deputy ever thought he would have to do is spend a year and a half seeking justice on behalf of his son who was beaten by Denver Police officers.

He wants them to pay for what the videotape of their actions shows.

"If they were Joe Q citizens, they would be in jail," he says.

He says that what drives him are the memories of the sounds that came over the cell phone his son held that night.

The thuds. The sirens.

The words he heard in the background: "They're recording us. We've got to get rid of the phone."

And then the silence as the phone line connecting father to son

went dead.

DeHerrera, 45, a decorated veteran deputy, talked in an interview Tuesday about his memories of that April 4, 2009 night when his son Michael, then 23, called him in a panic.

He woke from a deep sleep to answer the telephone. He heard his son crying out: "Dad, they're beating Shawn. They're beating Shawn."

Officers had taken Michael's friend, Shawn Johnson, then 24, into custody after he was ejected from a LoDo nightclub for using a women's restroom.

The police officers have declined comment, but the police union is backing the decision by Safety Manger Ron Perea, who oversees the police department, to keep Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr on the force but dock them each three days pay.

Union officials say Mayor John Hickenlooper's Monday decision to have the FBI review the actions of the officers is politically motivated. They are fighting the push for the firing of the officers by Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, who reviews investigations into alleged police misconduct.

"This is a case where elected officials are using the media for political grandstanding," said Vince Gravito, vice president of the Police Protective Association.

A videotape taken

on the police department's own High Activity Location Observation surveillance system, released publicly last week, captures Michael as he made a telephone call to his father at 12:14 a.m. that night.

Then the video shows Sparks approaching Michael, tackling him to the ground and then repeatedly beating him with a department-issued sap, a piece of metal wrapped in leather. The officer then roughly picks him up and puts him in the back of a squad car, slamming the door on his shin.

But the night of the telephone call, the father knew none of this. He didn't even know where to go to check on his son. He only had his law-enforcement instincts and the knowledge that his son was in deep trouble.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hrm. Nearly a year before this, Ritter signed Senate Bill 200, which makes it illegal to, among other things, kick people out of nightclubs for using the 'wrong' bathroom. So WTF? And why does this article ignore this?