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Monitor says Denver officers should be fired

3:01 PM, Sep 1, 2010   |    comments
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"If there was no video, that would have been the story," said Michael DeHerrera, the man seen on the video getting beaten by police on April 4, 2009, in an exclusive interview with 9Wants to Know investigator Deborah Sherman. "If it wasn't for that video, who knows what would have happened. We could still be in jail."

9Wants to Know obtained an advanced copy of the independent monitor's report due out Monday which says the police report of the incident was "pure fiction."

The incident started after DeHerrera, 24, and his friend Shawn Johnson, 25, were tossed out of the 5 Degrees Nightclub in LODO after Johnson used the women's restroom.
The bouncer told two off duty police officers that Johnson tried to assault him.

Johnson ran from the club and police chased after him. DeHerrera followed behind.

"I just knew this was going to end so badly," DeHerrera said.

The video recorded on the downtown Denver H.A.L.O. cameras show DeHerrera watching his friend who was facedown on the pavement being arrested by police.

DeHerrera was on his cell phone, talking to his father in Pueblo. His father is a decorated 22-year veteran of the Pueblo Sheriff's Department.

"He was screaming, 'Dad, they're beating up Shawn!'" Master Sergeant Anthony DeHerrera said. Then the phone went dead, leaving a father at home hours away wondering if his son was dead or alive.

The video shows that when DeHerrera's cell phone went dead, officer Devin Sparks had grabbed him and tossed him to the ground. The video shows Sparks hitting DeHerrera over and over again.

Officer Sparks admits he hit DeHerrera at least nine times with a piece of metal wrapped in leather known as a sap.

9Wants to Know has learned police are only allowed to use a sap when a person forcefully resists or attacks an officer. As of March 15, 2010, officers can no longer hit anyone with a sap.

The Denver Disciplinary Review Board and the Independent Monitor decided both officers should be fired for using unnecessary force.

Denver's Manager of Safety Ron Parea, who has the final word on disciplinary action, disagreed.

"I did not find excessive force," Parea told 9Wants to Know. "In looking at the totality of the situation of the officer being assaulted and their attempts to get the individuals to comply, get them handcuffed and arrested, I felt the force was not excessive," he said.

Parea suspended Randy Murr for three days without pay for writing inaccurate reports, and Sparks was docked 24 hours pay.

Parea said the officers did not lie on their reports.

"It's difficult for an officer to write a report afterwards when he doesn't have the availability of video. It will look different," he said.

If you have information about this incident or a tip for 9Wants to Know, e-mail blowthewhistle@9news.com or call 303-871-1799.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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