Michael DeHerrera beating: Activist says ruling blocking cops' reinstatement only partial victory
Since the April 2009 on-camera beating of Michael DeHerrera, Denver Police Officer Devin Sparks and Corporal Randy Murr, who can be seen in a video below attacking DeHerrera while he used his cell phone, have been suspended, fired and un-fired. Now, a new ruling nixes their reinstatement. But while that's good news for one activist who's been fighting on DeHerrera's behalf, he stresses that the development doesn't constitute a happy ending.
"All in all, I think it's definitely a positive thing," says Mu Son Chi, racial justice and civil rights program director for the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "But it's just a partial victory. We're sitting here three years later, and this case is still being ruled on."
Moreover, there'll be at least one more hearing on the subject.
As we've reported, the investigation into the attack on DeHerrera, which was captured by HALO cameras, took a long time to get going. Finally, in August 2010, Denver Manager of Safety Ron Perea determined that Sparks and Murr should be suspended for three days without pay but not fired -- a conclusion so controversial that Perea subsequently resigned. Cut to March 2011, when then-Manager of Safety Charley Garcia fired Sparks and Murr. However, they appealed the decision, and a hearing panel sided with them. Why? Because the cops had already accepted Perea's punishment (by not appealing the decision during a prescribed period), Garcia's move to sack them for the same offense represented the equivalent of double jeopardy.
Michael DeHerrera's mug shot, taken after the attack.
DeHerrera was surprised and confused by this turn of events, as he told us last September. "I knew it would be a long process," he conceded, "but everything seemed so clear. The video speaks for itself, so we thought everything was laid out for things to happen smoothly and efficiently. But we've gone through two internal affairs investigations and so many appeals. And when things go on like this, some people give up and go away. They don't want to deal with it anymore. They want to get back to their lives; they lose hope and don't see any chance for a positive outcome."
And now, the latest twist: Yesterday, the Civil Service Commission, which created a firestorm in January by reinstating two cops in a 2009 Denver Diner brutality incident, reversed the panel's edict about Sparks and Murr in what's being interpreted as a nod to the Manager of Safety's authority. But this determination doesn't mean the two cops are fired for good. They have the right to appeal to the same hearing panel that blocked their sacking in the first place.
No wonder Mu Son Chi isn't jumping for joy.
Page down to continue reading about the DeHerrera ruling and to see a video of the attack.