Coroner Rules Jail Death Following Tasering and Guard Restraint a Homicide
Denver recently got a new spiffy courthouse and jail. The jail opened in April and is called the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility. Our old county jail was deplorable. But I don't recall any inmates there being tased to death by guards.
In July, Marvin Booker, 56, a homeless ordained minister who helped the poor and who had a history of petty offenses that occurred a long time ago, was arrested on drug paraphernalia charges and brought to the new jail. He never made it out alive. The coroner's report released today labels the death a homicide.
Booker was asleep on a chair in the holding tank when a guard told him to go to processing desk and sit down. He was wearing his socks and wanted to get his shoes which were nearby. The guard told him not to and directed him to go to an isolation cell. He began walking back to the holding tank, and the guard went to physically restrain him. He tried to shake her off and she and three other guards jumped him. Here's what witnesses say happened after that. According to the autopsy report released today (available here) the coroner finds: [More...]
The coroner ruled Booker's death was caused by "cardiorespiratory arrest during physical restraint." The coroner said deputies had their body weight on Booker's back continuously for four minutes while he was face down and put him in a "sleeper hold" for more than two minutes while shocking him with a Taser for 8 seconds.
As to Marvin Booker, from the Denver Post, Booker spent 2007 and 2008 homeless in Memphis. He was a frequent volunteer at soup kitchens:
He wrote a book about Martin Luther King Jr., and he sold it on the streets of Memphis, usually to tourists who heard him recite King's famous "I have a dream" speech. When he spoke, crowds of tourists gathered.
"If you closed your eyes, you would think you were in the presence of Martin Luther King," said Memphis Pastor Andrews R. Smith. "People would cry. He was always smiling. His eyes would just shine like a chipmunk.....Marvin is such a kindhearted person," Smith said.
Five deputies are on leave without pay. There is a videotape but police are not releasing it, despite the requests of Booker's family and their attorney, Darrold Kilmer. Kilmer says of today's findings:
"The autopsy confirms fear that Mr. Booker was murdered at the hands of the Denver District Sheriff’s Office," Killmer said. "We look forward to the (Denver) District Attorney bringing charges against those responsible for murdering Mr. Booker. "The Booker family has been wanting justice and accountability, and now we know who is responsible for his death."
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