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Denver inmate’s death ruled homicide, result of being restrained by deputies

DENVER -- An autopsy has determined that an inmate held at the Downtown Detention Center died of asphyxia in November after being restrained by deputies. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and that he likely chocked on his own vomit.

Michael Lee Marshall, 50, was restrained during “an acute psychotic episode” on Nov. 11, according to the medical examiner’s office.

He was in custody at the Downtown Detention Center. At the time, the sheriff’s department said Marshall was unresponsive and taken to the hospital after what it called an “incident.”

On Nov. 20, he was taken off life support and died. At that time, his family demanded answers from officials.

Marshall was arrested on Nov. 7 for trespassing and disturbing the peace, and pleaded not guilty, the sheriff’s department said. He was being held on $100 bond.

"I just want you all to know that my uncle was a beautiful person," Natalia Marshall said during a Friday news conference. "I'm at a loss for words because all I can imagine is my uncle suffering his last moments on this earth how scared he was."

The family said it wants justice for Marshall's death and wants the six deputies involved to be charged. Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman said the department is cooperating with the investigation by police and the Denver District Attorney's Office.

"This is a horrible event. I can't imagine what the family is going through," Firman said.

Firman said the six deputies involved are on restrictive duty while the matter is being investigated.

"They can remain on restrictive duty and what that means is that they've been placed on assignments where they don't have contact with the inmate population," Firman said.

Pastors associated with the family called for a hunger strike until video evidence is released. The hunger strike is expected to start Monday.

Firman said he does not have the video evidence as it has been turned over to the district attorney. Evidence is not expected to be released until the investigation has concluded.