Denver Police chief wants officer involved in LoDo police beating fired

9:29 PM, Mar 14, 2011   |    comments
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Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman has recommended to the Denver Manager of Safety that Officer Devin Sparks be fired from the force for his beating of Michael DeHerrera on April 4, 2009.

This is a reversal of a decision previously made by a deputy chief and supported by Whitman to suspend the officer for 3-days.

According to Denver Police spokesman Matt Murray, Whitman did not make the initial recommendation to suspend the officers involved. He was on vacation at the time.

"It means the world 'cause we've been fighting this for two years. It's controlled our lives for the last two years and these officers don't know how many lives they've affected by their actions and will continue to affect somebody for the rest of our lives," Anthony DeHerrera, Michael DeHerrera's father, said. Anthony DeHerrera is a deputy with the Pueblo County Sheriff's Department.

Michael DeHerrera and his friend, Shawn Johnson, were arrested and beaten after Johnson was kicked out of a bar for using the women's restroom.

A city surveillance camera captured the arrest on video and shows Sparks and Officer Randy Murr putting Michael DeHerrera on the ground and hitting him repeatedly with a weapon. Michael DeHerrera had been making an emergency phone call to his father when he was attacked by the officers.

In the video, Sparks hits Michael DeHerrera repeatedly. Sparks later admitted he hit Michael DeHerrera at least nine times with a metal weapon wrapped in leather called a sap.

Whitman cannot directly terminate officers on the force. They must be fired by the manager of safety.

Both the Denver Disciplinary Review Board and the Independent Monitor have said both officers should be fired for using unnecessary force.

Former Manager of Safety Ron Perea initially said the officers should not be fired. Murr was suspended for three days without pay for writing inaccurate reports, and Sparks was docked 24 hours pay.

Whitman recommended that Murr get the same three-day suspension he was given before.

9Wants to Know then found two witnesses to the beatings, which prompted Perea to rescind his decision. Perea then resigned.

His successor, Mary Maletesta, also recently stepped down on March 12.

New Manager of Safety Charles Garcia has not been sworn in yet and will not take the oath until Wednesday.

Nick Rogers with the Police Protective Association, the union that represents Denver's officers, reacted negatively when he learned of Whitman's request.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "No additional information was uncovered. There were no additional witnesses. There was nothing. Our chief had an epiphany and I believe he succumbed to both public and media pressure... and I think that's wrong."

Rogers says the police union will appeal the decision to the office of civil service if Garcia agrees with Whitman and fires Sparks.

"It basically says if somebody cries enough, and there's enough pressure, the chief's going to succumb to that. It's not based on what factually occurred that night," Rogers said.

Anthony DeHerrera says this is not the end and he plans to take the case to the Denver district attorney and insist that Sparks be prosecuted.

"He needs to pay for what he did," Anthony DeHerrera said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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