City officials urge police beating victim to have patience

9:27 AM, Dec 17, 2010   |    comments
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"It's understandable that you are frustrated that it's taken so long. And we are conscious of the message it sends our citizens," the family recalls Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal saying. "But it's a complicated case."

DeHerrera, his father and his grandfather met with the deputy mayor, independent monitor, interim-manager of safety and Denver Police chief Thursday afternoon in the mayor's office. The family says it left the meeting "happy" and confident the case will be thoroughly investigated and will have the correct outcome.

DeHerrera and his friend Shawn Johnson were arrested and beaten by police on April 4, 2009 after Johnson was kicked out of a bar for using the women's restroom.

A city surveillance camera captured the arrest on video and shows Officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr pulling DeHerrera on the ground and hitting him repeatedly with a weapon. DeHerrera had been making an emergency phone call to his father, Pueblo County Sheriff's Deputy Anthony DeHerrera, when he was attacked by the officers.

Michael DeHerrera wonders what happens to people who are beaten by police and don't have a father who works in law enforcement.

"What about the kid whose dad isn't a cop, whose dad doesn't know anything? What happens to them? Where are they? Are they in jail? Are they still paying hospital bills?" he asked.

The police department investigated the case and ruled that Sparks and Murr did not use excessive force but did write their reports inaccurately. They were suspended for three days until 9Wants to Know found two new witnesses who contradicted the officers story and prompted the department to reopen the case.

"These guys are not good cops. They started covering up from the start," Anthony DeHerrera said to Police Chief Gerald Whitman in the closed-door meeting. "These guys deserve to be charged and I don't know how you would want them on the force."

The DeHerrera family wants to the officers charged and fired.

Sparks and Murr are currently working at Denver International Airport while their case is being investigated. They have not returned any calls or e-mails for comment. On their behalf, the police union has said the officers already served their punishment and should not be punished again.

In a statement, the city said it has not made any decisions and did not express any opinions about the ultimate outcome of the on-going investigation of the case.

"Our goals in meeting with the DeHerrera family today was to facilitate improved communication and understanding for all and to provide the family with an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns," the statement said.

Anthony DeHerrera also brought up other parts of the video that disturb him, including a time where Sparks can be seen reenacting his arrest and beating of Michael to another officer.

"He's bragging about how he beat my son up to another officer and he's actually showing him how he beat him up," Anthony DeHerrera said. "It goes along with the culture down there that if you don't do exactly what they say when they want it, you're going to get a beat-down."

Anthony DeHerrera carries around a laptop and watches the video of the night of April 4, 2009 over and over every single day. Each time, he's looking for something new that will help prove his son's innocence.

"I hope there's a day that I don't look at it anymore," he said. "It kills me every time I see it. Especially when they lift him up and you can see all the blood on the ground."

The city says it resolves 90 percent of allegations of excessive force within 90 days. They said this case is different because it's complicated and did not offer the family any time line of when it all might be over.

If you have any news tips, please e-mail Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman at

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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