On July 9, Marvin Booker, 56, homeless and the son of a Tennessee pastor, was booked in Denver's new downtown jail on drug charges, including possession. The booking process took place in the very early hours of the morning, but a jail doesn't sleep, and neither did the witnesses who allegedly saw how Booker died that morning.
Two witnesses, neither with serious criminal backgrounds, claim that Booker was asked to sit at a desk in the booking area, and when he told the officers he wanted to stand and put on his shoes, the officers got excessively forceful. Reports claim that Booker went for his shoes and told the Denver officers that he would rather they put him in a cell instead of making him sit at their desk.
The correctional officers then allegedly went after Booker because they claim he was not obeying them. Witnesses allege that Booker did push an officer away, but that the officers grew in numbers and proceeded to unnecessarily injure Booker.
Witness reports cite that about five officers got involved in restraining Booker, who was only 5 feet 5 inches tall. He was put in a headlock and tased with a Taser gun repeatedly. The alleged bout of excessive force concluded when the group drug Booker, on his stomach, to a holding cell and left him there without checking his vitals.
One of the witnesses claims that he believed it looked like Booker had stopped breathing, and the corrections officers left him there and celebrated the incident with laughs and high-fives. Booker was pronounced dead before sunrise that morning.
Booker's family, their attorney and human rights activists are fired up. They are fighting to get access to the videotape that reportedly exists that would show them what happened to Booker in the Denver jail. Also pending is the coroner's report citing Booker's cause of death.
Until those central pieces of evidence are accessed, no formal charges will be filed in this case of alleged excessive violence that resulted in death. We will inform you when more details from this case are revealed.
The Denver Post: Inmates say they witnessed man's death when jailers restrained, shocked him repeatedly (7/21/2010)
9News.com: Family of inmate who died in Denver jail looking for answers (8/10/2010)