Activists mark jailhouse death of Marvin Booker, vow to change Denver police culture

This past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Marvin Booker’s death at the Denver jail after a tragic confrontation with Sheriff Department deputies. Booker’s parents commemorated the dark day by joining members of a rights coalition and police brutality awareness activists for a rally in front of the jailhouse. Booker’s death was one of several high-profile episodes over the last few years that have sparked widespread concerns over law enforcement practices in the Denver metro area. At the event Saturday, the ACLU’s Rosemary Harris Lytle said the group asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate police practices in the city.

“We must change the culture of policing in this city and county,” she said. “We’ve called on the Department of Justice to launch an independent investigation of law enforcement practices in this city so that those of us who live and work here can do so without having to fear the police. We say that police brutality is killing us and that enough is enough.”

Harris Lytle called on the administration of Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock to make addressing police brutality a top priority.

“Not one more citizen, not one more family should have to endure what the Booker family endured,” she said.

A pastor at the event on the video below said the point of honoring Booker’s death was to do something vital for the living.

“We must stand by Marvin and realize that if we don’t stand by him and fight for him, it will be someone else tomorrow.”

Booker, who was 56 when he was killed, was a homeless pastor with a string of run-ins with the law. He was arrested on the night of his death for possession of drug paraphernalia. He was reportedly winking in and out of sleep before being called to the processing desk at the Van Cise Detention Center. Standing in his socks, he left the desk to retrieve his shoes. He ignored orders to leave the shoes and sit. A scuffle ensued, a cluster of deputies subdued him and tased him and dumped him in a holding cell, where he stopped breathing. The city coroner pronounced his death a homicide.

After the investigation into his death, which cleared the five deputies involved, video tape of the scuffle was released to the public.

The remembrance gathering included representatives of the ACLU, NAACP, the Shorter AME church, Servicios de La Raza, One Colorado, the National Lawyers Guild and CopWatch.

Police brutality was a major issue in the heated recent Denver mayoral race. Hancock spoke about it regularly on the stump, as did the other mayoral candidates. Hancock said that if he were elected he would work to change the city’s police culture “from top to bottom to ensure that excessive force is never tolerated.”

Hancock is reportedly conducting a national search for a new police chief.

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