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Family of inmate who died in custody asks criminal investigation to be reopened

DENVER -- The family of a former Denver jail inmate who died while in custody is asking the Denver District Attorney's Office to reopen a criminal investigation.

Marvin Booker was arrested on drug charges and taken to jail in July 2010. The 56-year-old was a homeless street preacher.

“He was homeless by choice,” his sister Anna Bond said, “He was out there for the people.”

In the early-morning hours of July 9, 2010, he reportedly disobeyed a deputy’s orders because he wanted to get his shoes.

Four deputies and a sergeant pinned him to the ground and deployed a stun gun. Booker stopped breathing during the incident and later died at a hospital.

“He was letting them know he couldn’t breathe and they wouldn’t let up on him and that’s what really bothers me. He died an excruciating death,” Bond said.

At the time, the coroner ruled the death a homicide. Legally, the term homicide means other humans were involved at the time of death. It does not imply fault or criminal intent.

Then-District Attorney Mitch Morrissey decided not to pursue charges against any of the sheriff’s department staff involved. Ultimately, he found Booker’s death to be a direct result of his own actions.

In 2014, Booker’s case went to trial in civil court. A federal jury sided with his family, finding deputies at fault for Booker's death.

The jury awarded Booker’s family $4.65 million for punitive damages, funeral costs and the loss of enjoyment of life. Along with the $1.35 million awarded in legal fees, it is the largest payout in Denver’s history.

Booker’s family and legal team assembled in Denver to honor the seventh anniversary of his death. They laid a wreath of white roses at the entrance to the Denver City Jail.

“Nobody knows how special he was but me. But I thank God that he was my son and I really loved him dearly,” his mother said during a news conference.

The family is also asking Denver’s new District Attorney Beth McCann to revisit the criminal side of the case. They say they don’t believe justice has been served.

“It really bothers me because I looked at the video and saw how he was murdered, that was very painful,” Bond said.

Their theory in pursuing new charges centers around the stun gun that was used during the altercation.

“For the last three years, the city has failed to answer, where is the Taser?” Booker’s brother Spencer Booker said.

The Bookers believe records from the stun gun will prove deputies used excess force by deploying the charge for longer than the manufacturer recommends.

However, they accuse the deputies of getting rid of the stun gun that was used to cover up any wrongdoing.

“Because the Taser was used against policy, that Taser came up missing and another Taser was switched in its place,” Spencer Booker alleges.

Those claims have not been substantiated or proven in court.

The Booker family met with McCann on Monday to discuss the case. McCann has not said if she will reopen the case.

The Bookers said they feel “hopeful” that McCann is at least willing to listen.