DPD reopens internal investigation into alleged beating

8:52 AM, Aug 20, 2010   |    comments
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"I am completely ecstatic," Michael DeHerrera told 9Wants to Know in an exclusive interview Thursday night. "I can't believe that the witnesses came forward, I am so grateful that they did."

Denver Police announced it was reopening the investigation into Cpl. Randy Murr and Officer Devin Sparks and the April 4, 2009 incident because of the new eye witnesses.

The office of the independent monitor will once again monitor the case.

The two witnesses at the center of Thursday's decision spent the night talking to investigators from the Denver Police Department. That came after Denver Police and the FBI called 9NEWS Thursday for information on the witnesses. Both witnesses agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Vanessa Shaver, who came to 9NEWS with her story on Wednesday, spent an hour and a half at Denver Police headquarters Thursday night.

"We are really happy. It feels really good to help somebody," she said.

Shaver and her boyfriend, Hasan Aoutabachai, were standing a couple of feet away from DeHerrera on April 4, 2009 and witnessed his beating.

"He [DeHerrera] wasn't saying anything. He wasn't being rude. He said nothing to the cop whatsoever," Aoutabachi said. "The next thing you know, the cop grabs him, I think by the neck, and just slams him on the floor and beats him senseless."

Thursday, Aoutabachi said he felt really good about coming forward.

"I didn't do it to become famous. I did it to help out," he said.

9Wants to Know talked to both of Denver's top cops about the decision to reopen the case.

"We have an obligation to hear the new evidence in the case," Denver Manager of Safety Ron Perea said. "If new, credible information is presented and the case comes back to me with new information, I will reconsider it all."

"I made my decision based on the information that I had," he said. "But with this new information, these new witnesses, we have an obligation to look into that," Perea said.

Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman said he will personally relook at the entire case.

"If there are more witnesses to the incident that night, we hope they will come forward too," Whitman said.

Denver Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal, who has already recommended that both officers be fired for using unnecessary force and lying on their reports to cover it up, said Thursday he will watch over the case.

Perea did not take the monitor's recommendation and suspended Murr without pay for three days and took 24 hours of pay away from Sparks after finding that they wrote their police reports "inaccurately."

Murr's suspension was supposed to begin on Sept. 5 and run through Sept. 7.

The decision to reopen the case came a few short hours after members of the Latino community confronted Perea about his refusal to fire Murr and Sparks for the incident.

On Thursday afternoon, more than 50 people packed into a meeting room to meet with Perea, including city council members, members of the Urban League, Police Watch, CO Progressive Coalition, Latino leaders, community activists and church leaders. Most, if not all of them, disagreed with Perea's punishment of the two officers.

Some called for Perea's resignation including City Councilwoman Judy Montero.

"Let the two officers go. And if you don't let the two officers go, then, respectfully, it's time for you to step aside," she told Perea.

Perea told the group he stands by his decision.

Whitman defended how the process has gone to this point.

"We are sensitive about the community's concerns, but it still needs to be a fair and legal personnel process," Whitman said. "But, we are going through the entire case again, and if we need to will re-interview other witnesses in the case."

On Wednesday, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced he was asking the FBI to investigate the case. Thursday night, the FBI suspended its investigation while it waits for the conclusion of the DPD investigation.

"We are holding our review of this matter in abeyance until the Denver Police Department has completed and adjudicated its investigation," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said in a statement.

If you have any news tips or video, please e-mail Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman at Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.

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