Man dies after altercation in jail, family seeks answers

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DENVER -- A Denver man has been taken off life support days after an altercation inside the Denver jail.

Now, the family of 50-year-old Michael Marshall is calling for answers and demanding to see the video showing what happened.

The family of Michael Marshall tells FOX31 Denver that he went into cardiac arrest during the altercation inside the Denver jail on Nov. 11. On Friday, they took him off life support.

He was arrested on Nov. 7 for trespassing and disturbing the peace.

Marshall’s niece, Kisha McFarland, said he was kicked out of a motel where he had been staying. She said her uncle, who weighed 130 pounds, was homeless and suffered from schizophrenia from the age of 16.

"There were times where Michael, he would be confused about what was going on, but he was never dangerous, and when he got upset normally Michael would just walk away," she said.

"He was nothing close to a threat whatsoever. He was full of laughter and full of joy," said Ryan Taylor, who knew Marshall through Network Ministries.

The Denver Sheriff Department has only released a short statement about the incident.

“At about 6:30 p.m. on November 11, deputy sheriffs responded to an incident involving Mr. Marshall in the sally port outside the pod in which he was housed,” the statement read. “Medical staff also responded and Mr. Marshall was later transported to Denver Health Medical Center by ambulance.”

The statement also promised a thorough review of the incident, saying new Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman, who took over the office in October, was at the detention center after the incident and that the city’s independent monitor had also been contacted.

“Sheriff Firman gives his assurance a thorough internal review will be completed,” the statement read. “We are committed to transparency and will cooperate fully with investigations conducted by outside agencies.

On Saturday, a spokesman released another statement in response to Marshall’s death.

“Our sincere condolences are with the Marshall family at this difficult time. We met with the family yesterday and are committed to a thorough investigation, and transparency into what occurred," the statement read.

Despite that meeting, the family made it clear on Saturday that they are not satisfied with the limited information they have so far.

"We want to know what happened,” McFarland said. “All we know is that there was a situation where he had to be subdued and, in the process of being subdued, he had a heart attack."

"This situation has become all too familiar,” said Mari Newman, attorney for the family. “Standing here on the steps of the Denver jail asking again, 'What happened?'"

Firman assumed control of the embattled sheriff’s department after the resignation of Gary Wilson.

Under Wilson’s watch, the city of Denver paid more than $9 million in legal settlements and lawyers’ fees related to several excessive-force scandals, including the case of Marvin Booker, whose family was awarded $6 million after the 56-year-old died inside the same detention center where Marshall was being held.

"It's simply not right when an unarmed, homeless, black man is in jail for a minor, minor offense and comes out dead,” Newman said. "And if it turns out that there was wrongdoing, the community is entitled to accountability."

"It makes you sad and it makes you angry because you know, knowing Michael, you know he didn't deserve it,” McFarland said. “I believe if that had a better way of handling mental illness, we wouldn't be standing here today."

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