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Denver D.A. Blames Booker for His 'Justified' Killing; No Charges Against Jail Deputies

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By Roger K. Clendening, Special to the NNPA from the Denver Weekly News –

Marvin L. Booker’s slaying in the Denver jail was his fault; his killing was legally “justified,” and the five deputies implicated in his July 9 death will not be charged, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declared.

Morrissey’s “decision statement” concluded that Mr. Booker brought on his own “homicide” by resisting the Denver Sheriff Office (DS) deputies trying to handcuff him and place him in a holding cell at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center after he merely tried to retrieve his shoes and one deputy forcibly attempted to prevent him from getting them.

Mr. Booker might still be alive had he not defensively responded to the one deputy’s forcible attempt to prevent him from getting his shoes. That theme was repeated frequently in Morrissey’s statement.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Black people’s reaction to Morrissey’s statement was swift and condemning last week, with some insisting Justice is asleep when it comes to Black men, and others maintaining Morrissey may see “just-us” when re-election time rolls around.

The Greater Metro Ministerial Alliance, for example, described Morrissey’s statement as an “absurd” contradiction, noting that the medical examiner’s report “clearly states that Marvin’s death was at the hands of others (homicide), but the DA states that Marvin’s death was the result of his own action (suicide).”

The Alliance, in a news conference at Greater St. John Baptist Church the day after the DA’s announcement, demanded three things of Morrissey, on behalf of “fair-minded” Denver citizens:

1. A Grand Jury investigation of the Booker homicide, saying “we need more than one set of eyes to review the evidence to determine the accountability for the death of Mr. Booker.”

2. A Federal Bureau of Investigation probe to determine if the civil rights of Mr. Booker were violated, and

3. A rescinding of DA Morrissey’s decision or his resignation

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

In a rally and demonstration at Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church the night after the DA’s declaration, nearly 100 people held signs protesting Mr. Booker’s “murder,” calling his slaying part of “genocide” against Black people in Denver, and reiterating the earlier call for DA Morrissey to rescind his decision or resign.

Those residents, along with Mr. Booker’s grieving brother, Rev. Spencer Booker – here representing the family seeking justice – gathered privately in the church to hold a “next steps” meeting from which Shorter’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. Timothy Tyler, politely asked the media to exclude themselves.

Just prior to the “next steps” meeting, Rev. Spencer Booker dropped “a word of warning” to those present, given what he called the “murder” of his brother that has gone unpunished:

“Tell your children, tell your daughters, tell your aunts and uncles, that if they are arrested in Denver, they may not see the light of day!”

And all Mr. Marvin Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

During the rally, attended by members of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, and by the Booker family’s attorneys, Darold W. Killmer and Mari Newman, of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, there was additional focus on Morrissey’s decision statement.

For example, the evidence that Morrissey said he reviewed – which, according to his statement, did not include the testimony of the 46 other persons, and potential witnesses, referenced in the medical examiner’s report as waiting with Mr. Booker to be processed, was also noted by the ministers – shows that the application of the degree of force used by the five deputies “to control and handcuff Mr. Booker was justified,” Morrissey wrote in the statement.

The names of the deputies involved – all of whom were placed on paid leave (some called it an “undeserved vacation”) pending completion of the investigation – are Sgt. Carrie Medina, Faun Gomez, James Grimes, Kenneth Robinette, and Kyle Sharp, according to DS spokesman Frank Gale.

“A review of the totality of the evidence amassed in this investigation supports the conclusion that it was the actions of Mr. Booker that necessitated the use of force (by five deputies) at its inception and during its protracted continuation until he was subdued and controlled,” Morrissey wrote.

Moreover, he wrote, “tragically, Mr. Booker’s actions and choices resulted in his death.”

Morrissey said that after reviewing all of the evidence, no criminal charge can be proved against any of the five deputies involved.

In fact, he wrote, “the deputies were justified in using the degree of force used which was reasonable, necessary and appropriate” under the specific facts of the case.

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Mr. Booker’s heart stopped pumping “during physical restraint,” wrote Dr. John Carver, assistant medical examiner, in his autopsy report issued August 20. Carver reported that Mr. Booker had been “restrained prone on the floor with the weight of (five) restraining officers” on his chest and abdomen.

That crushing of five, count ‘em, five human beings on Mr. Booker’s 5’5”, 135-pound frame, determined by Morrissey to be “reasonable, necessary and appropriate,” was accompanied by the since-suspended “sleeper” hold around the slain man’s neck and throat; the use of nun chucks, and repetitive shocking with a Taser to keep him pinned to the floor, contributed to his getting killed, according to Dr. Carver’s report.

Other strong criticism of Morrissey’s decision came from Lawrence Borom, former head of the Urban League of Denver. He is a 34-year city resident, activist and academic with wide-ranging experience and exposure to the containment practices of Denver city and county criminal justice system practitioners, and the impact of those practices on Black men, in particular.

After reviewing Morrissey’s publicly issued statement, Borom emailed the following assessment to DWN:

“After reviewing the D.A.'s statement of 9/28/10, I have the following comments: Denver District Attorneys never, or seldom, charge law-enforcement officers with criminal acts when the death of a Black citizen is involved, no matter what the circumstances are, what witnesses relate, or what other evidence is available.

“The newspaper accounts of damaging witness statements against the deputies in this case are not mentioned by the D.A. in his statement. Were they not a part of his investigation? All public accounts of the incident suggested that excessive force was involved in this case, leading to Mr. Booker's death. Five deputies were not able to control one 135 pound, 56- year-old man, short of inflicting death? Morrissey blames Booker's struggles as the cause of his death; he doesn't question the provocation of the female deputy in not allowing Booker to gather his shoes, and then physically contacting him when he proceeded to get them anyway. Was this demand by the deputy unreasonable? News accounts indicated that Booker was not uncooperative up to this point. Might a more reasoned order from the deputy have prevented the incident? Further, in a notorious case of a Black youth dying from a choke-hold in an arrest by Denver Police a number of years ago, the Black community was assured that the choke-hold would no longer be used by law-enforcement officers in Denver. When was this dangerous practice resumed, and under whose authority?

And all he wanted to do was retrieve his shoes.

Larry Borom went on to add: “I met Marvin Booker at the time he arrived in Denver. He endeared himself to the people of the Black community by his uncanny recitations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches. He occasionally did unskilled work for the Urban League, of which I was then the President/CEO.

“Marvin was a young man who wanted justice for his people, who was always willing to help others. He became the constant friend of me and the rest of the Urban League staff. I haven't seen Marvin for many years, and I was not familiar with later problems he encountered, but he always had a helping hand for those he thought could be saved from the streets.

“Marvin didn't deserve to be beaten to death, as has been reported, nor does any person. These atrocities have occurred over and over in the 34 years I have lived in Denver,” said Borom.

“They will only stop happening when all the responsible authorities, especially the Mayor [John W. Hickenlooper, now a candidate for Governor of Colorado] and the District Attorney [Mitchell Morrissey is expected to seek re-election to a third and final term in 2012], let it be known that Black citizens, their children, and friends, are not to be brutalized and killed by the law-enforcement officers of the city and county of Denver,” Borom said. The assembled ministers and citizens at the rally, amid shouts of Amen and the calls to an Almighty always perceived as on the side of the righteous but trod-upon masses, issued wailing, prayerful appeals, through the Black church’s ever-present calls and responses, declaring, finally and collectively, “We ain’t going away. We’re here to stay, until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“Such a tragedy,” concluded Borom, “is only possible when Justice sleeps and killers feel that they are immune to prosecution in the deaths of Black citizens.”

And all Mr. Marvin L. Booker tried to do was retrieve his shoes.

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