Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office released three videos last Thursday showing two different camera angles of a November incident that led to the in-custody death of 50-year-old homeless paranoid schizophrenic man Michael Lee Marshall.
According to KDRV-TV, Marshall had been arrested on trespassing charges and was being held on $100 bond at Can Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver when the incident took place.
After Marshall lost consciousness while being restrained by deputies, he was admitted to Denver Health Medical Center in a brain-dead state. His family opted to take him off of life support 9 days later on Nov. 30.
The Associated Press notes that the medical examiner ruled Marshall’s death a homicide by “cardiorespiratory arrest” and “complications of positional asphyxia” related to the manner in which he was restrained.
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Describing the controversy about the footage, The Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene wrote, “The second camera shows that deputies spent about three minutes strapping Marshall’s seemingly limp shoulders and arms into the chair while as many as ten uniformed officers surrounded him. Marshall sat lifeless in the chair for about five minutes while the deputies, for the most part, stood around and watched.”
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office announced on Thursday that the deputies who restrained Marshall will not face charges.
Explaining his rationale for not pressing charges in a statement cited by The Colorado Independent, Morrisey wrote, “Based on the evidence in this investigation, I conclude that the physical force exerted against Mr. Marshall by the deputy sheriffs was for the lawful purpose of maintaining order in the jail as allowed by Colorado’s statute, and was applied by the deputies as part of their responsibility to provide safety and security. There is no evidence suggesting any force was used for the purpose of harming Mr. Marshall. It should be remembered that this incident began as an attempt to get help for Mr. Marshall who was behaving erratically and inappropriately. The event that required the deputies to physically control him was not of their choosing and their actions were in response to Mr. Marshall’s behavior. Indeed, their efforts to help him continued through the remarkable twenty minutes of CPR.”
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Mayor Michael Hancock wrote in a statement, “Denver today fulfilled its commitment to the Marshall family to view the video. This family deserves to know what occurred during this tragic event. I am confident this is the right thing to do, but I also know it makes this incident no less difficult for the family, the sheriff deputies and the community.”
The release of the videos comes on the heels of a hunger strike by Marshall’s family members and a lawsuit by The Colorado Independent, both of which having demanded that the videos be released.
Natalia Marshall, Michael Lee Marshall’s neice, said, “He didn’t try to hurt anyone. He wasn’t threatening. And for them to forcefully restrain him the way they did and brutally murder him just because of the fact that he was trespassing? Is beyond my thoughts.”
Marshall’s family is reportedly considering a lawsuit against the City of Denver and has retained attorneys from the firm Killmer, Lane and Newman, who previously represented the family of Marvin Booker, another man who died while restrained in a Denver jail in 2010. In that case, the firm obtained a $6 million award for Booker’s family.
A 1995 Department of Justice bulletin warned law enforcement agencies of the dangers of positional asphyxia as it pertains to the restraint of individuals in police custody.
One of the videos of the incident can be seen in the above-embedded player, and the other two can be seen below.