Denver officials are deeply divided over the proper level of punishment for a police officer who was seen on video tackling and beating a 23-year-old man who was doing nothing but talking on a telephone outside a LoDo nightclub.
The video of Officer Devin Sparks repeatedly hitting Michael DeHerrera of Denver with a department-issued piece of metal wrapped in leather, picking him up roughly and slamming a car door on his ankle has prompted Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal to push for the firing of Sparks and Corporal Randy Murr.
Rosenthal, who monitors police internal investigations, maintains Sparks and Murr are unfit for the force because they didn't tell the truth about the April 4, 2009 incident. Rosenthal also believes the use of force by Sparks was excessive. The Denver City Council earlier this year agreed to pay $17,500 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by DeHerrera alleging excessive force.
DeHerrera, in interviews, has described police as beating him unconscious. He said he woke up in a hospital bed, with stitches in his head, and a swollen head. He said he later was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.
"The video was so important because it showed everything that happened, regardless of reports or what's filled out," DeHerrera said in an interview. "The video speaks more than any of those words can."
He added: "I don't swing. I don't blade. I'm on the phone. 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.'"
The incident was filmed by the police department's own High Activity Location Observation video surveillance system. Video released to the news media by the department shows DeHerrera doing nothing but talking on his phone with his father, a sheriff's deputy in Pueblo.
Rosenthal, in a report to be released on Monday, labels as "pure fiction" the police report from Sparks that describes his force as justified because DeHerrera "spun to his left attempting to strike me in the face with a closed right fist."