Posted: Aug 15, 2010 7:45 PM by John Romero, Jeannette Hynes
Updated: Aug 16, 2010 3:08 AM
Michael DeHerrera is your average 24 year old from Southern Colorado. Being the son of a Pueblo Sheriff's Deputy he's stayed out of trouble. But that all changed when he went out in downtown Denver in April 2009.
"He (Michael) was saying, they're beating up Shawn, they're beating up Shawn." recalls Michael's dad Anthony DeHerrera, a long-time veteran of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office.
Michael and his friend, 25-year-old Shawn Johnson, were kicked out of a LoDo night club after Johnson used the women's restroom. What followed outside on that snowy night changed the two men forever. Shawn is chased across the street by a bouncer and Denver Police. As he's arrested, Michael approaches while talking on his cell phone.
"I was just panicked. I heard someone say, 'He's recording us. Get rid of the phone.' Then I heard punches," says Michael. "Next thing I know is I wake up in the hospital."
Michael received numerous cuts and bruises to his face and body. The police report from Denver Police says Michael swung at cops. Michael says the proof is in the video.
"The video will clearly show I don't swing, I don't blade, I'm on the phone," Michael explains. "The only thing I hold onto is my phone. When I go down, I'm out. And that's when he continues to get my compliance."
A disciplinary board and the Independent Denver Police Monitor ruled the officers should be fired with the monitor's report calling the police report "pure fiction". But Denver's new Manager of Safety Ron Parea, who makes the final call, says the force displayed by police was all within reason.
"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," Parea explains.
One officer was suspended three days without pay for writing inaccurate reports. The other was docked 24 hours of pay. That punishment isn't enough for DeHerrera.
"If it wasn't for that video, who knows what would have happened. We could still be in jail," he says.
Randy Murr and Devin Sparks, the officers involved in the incident, are back out on the job.
We showed the video to people in Pueblo to get their reaction.
"I think if went unconscious, he did use too much brutality on him," says Eleanor Bunch.
"They could have just got him and you know, handcuffed him or something, without having the knock him down like that," says Martha Resendez.
Gary McCarthy also looked at the video, but with a different perspective and reaction. He's a former Pueblo County Sheriff's deputy.
"It would depend on the circumstances. If I was the officer, it's hard to make an opinion like that unless I'm the arresting officer. It's always easy to for someone to step aside and judge the situation," explains McCarthy.
McCarthy adds knocking someone to unconsciousness seems excessive.
"Once you have control of the situation, that's where you stop," says McCarthy.
The Independent Monitor's report is expected to be released Monday. The city of Denver has settled a claim by the two men for $15,500.