DENVER – The family of Michael Lee Marshall is calling for a federal investigation after an incident inside the jail that led to his death. That's after they reviewed a surveillance video of the confrontation. Additionally, the Denver district attorney announced Thursday none of the deputies involved would be charged in the case.
Marshall was arrested in November 2015 for trespassing. He was being held at the Can Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver when an incident occurred causing several deputies to pin him to the ground. A report of the incident said Marshall was resisting the deputies. He was held on the ground for 13 minutes before being placed in a restraint chair.
At some point during that time, Marshall suffered a heart attack and choked on his own vomit, causing his heart to stop. Jail staff performed CPR on him for 20 minutes before he was taken to Denver Health in an ambulance. Marshall died in the hospital nine days later.
Marshall’s family believes he was murdered.
“He didn’t try to hurt anyone. He wasn’t threatening and for them to restrain him the way they did and brutally murder him just because of the fact that he was trespassing is beyond my thoughts,” said Marshall’s niece Natalia Marshall through tears.
“Watching that tape they committed murder. It’s obvious,” Marshall’s brother Rodney said.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey reviewed the case and announced on Thursday there will be no criminal charges brought against the deputies.
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“This was not a situation where he was beaten, where he was choked, where he was 'tased,'” Morrissey told FOX31 Denver. “We felt that we couldn’t prove that the officers acted unreasonably with use of force or the causation, that they cased, any one sheriff or all the sheriffs, caused his death.”
Denver Medical Examiner Dr. Meredith Frank performed an autopsy on Marshall and determined that he died from inhaling vomit into his lungs. She ruled the death a homicide She cannot say for sure when or why it happened. Morrissey said that is a key piece of evidence in order to prosecute.
Morrissey also points to a portion of the video before deputies begin to restrain Marshall as argument for why deputies did not directly cause the death.
“He starts to slide down the wall. And if you watch that in slow motion and you watch that very closely you’ll realize that is not a voluntary act. I think a jury would believe that he’s starting to have a heart attack at that point,” he said.
Marshall’s family and lawyers do not agree. They believe the video shows a different scenario in which deputies continue to keep Marshall on the ground while he’s having a health emergency and then put a spit mask on him, causing him to choke on his vomit and ultimately die.
“Michael Marshall is only the latest in a string of people who are maimed and killed at the hands of Denver law enforcement,” attorney Darold Killmer said. “It’s clear that Denver cannot be trusted to take care of its own business. It never has. It never will.”
Marshall’s family, lawyers and some other community leaders are calling for a federal investigation. If that does not happen, Killmer says the family will pursue a civil wrongful death case.