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2 cops fired over videotaped brutal beating reinstated

10:25 AM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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Denver Police Officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr were fired March 25 by then-Manager of Safety Charles Garcia after he found them guilty of using inappropriate force and lying on their police reports about the Downtown Denver beating.

The panel of officers reversed Garcia's decision Tuesday, ruling that Garcia did not have the right to terminate the officers under the city charter because the officers had already been punished once by Garcia's predecessor, Safety Manager Ron Perea. Sparks and Murr had accepted Perea's decision to suspend them for three days without pay and all time limits for appeals had passed.

Because of the reversal, the police union called it a very happy day.

"They didn't deserve termination," Nick Rogers, president of the Police Protective Association, said. "At the end of the day, you actually have human beings who were out trying to protect the public and were doing it and were darn good cops at the time. They will come back and they will be good cops again."

Rogers says Garcia should be "ashamed of himself" for judging Murr and Sparks on nine seconds of video, along with the media. While the city is expected to appeal, Rogers said the union "will stand behind them until the bitter end."

Late Tuesday, acting Manager of Safety Ashley Kilroy said she supports Garcia's decision to terminate the officers.

"I cannot and do not tolerate excessive force in our city's safety agencies or departing from the truth by any of our employees," Kilroy said in a statement.

The beating victims, Shawn Johnson and Michael DeHerrera, told 9NEWS they're confused, shocked and sick to their stomachs over the reversal.

"I don't think I need someone to say, 'Yes, Shawn, you were right, your civil rights were violated and these cops were out of line.' I don't need to hear that because I know what happened that night," Johnson said. "But I do expect people who are put in certain position to protect me, to protect me when I can't protect myself."

"It was finally clear what was right and what was wrong and everybody agreed that they were wrong," DeHerrera said. "So now to put that back up into the air is just ridiculous."

Immediately after they were arrested April 4, 2009, they were charged with misdemeanors and faced jail time for allegedly interfering with officers and not following orders. The young men had been kicked out of a bar after one of them used the women's restroom.

Johnson was considering cutting a plea deal when their attorneys learned city cameras had captured their arrests on camera. The video showed the officers tackling and hitting the men repeatedly with a metal weapon while they were not resisting. Police records later showed the officers lied on their reports.

The video also showed DeHerrera calling his father for help. Anthony DeHerrera, a Pueblo Sheriff's Department deputy, was upset at the panel's decision to put the officers back on the force.

"I'm shocked, appalled, disappointed. We can't believe it. There are knots in our stomachs," Anthony DeHerrera said. "I guess we had it wrong. Denver Police can do whatever they want to whomever they want and get away with it."

"I'm in fear for Michael's safety now with that these two knuckleheads are back on the street," Anthony DeHerrera said.

The manager of safety says Murr and Sparks will be assigned to desk jobs while the appeals process takes its course. The city attorney can appeal to the Civil Service Commission or in district court, according to city officials.

Deherrera and Johnson say they didn't want to spend their lives fighting for justice, but are thankful for their friends and families support along the way.

"Something has to change," Johnson said. "Victims should not continue being victimized.  They should be taken care of. And the people who are victimizing them should be punished.  That seems to be the opposite of what is going on here."

If you have any news tips, please email Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman at Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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