Excessive force in Denver: A mother’s open letter

[Editor’s note: On Friday, The Colorado Independent posted a video and news story about the Denver Sheriff’s Department and its use of taser guns on a suicidal man at the city jail. Ned St. Germain, the sergeant who ordered the attack on inmate Isaiah Moreno, was found to have broken the city’s use of force policy and was disciplined with a 10-day suspension without pay. St. Germain is appealing that decision today before Denver’s Career Service Authority.

Since the September 2013 attack, Moreno has pleaded guilty of second-degree murder for the fatal stabbing on a man on an RTD bus. He is serving 36 years in state prison for a crime he committed when he was 20.

This letter is from Moreno’s mother, Yvette, who didn’t know what her son endured while awaiting trial in Denver’s jail. “You know, my son, he never said anything about what happened to him in there,” she said. Here is her letter.]

Last night my sister, Pauline (Isaiah’s loving aunt and godmother) came into my room with very disturbing news about a video of her nephew — my oldest son, Isaiah Moreno. I sat there with mixed emotions as I watched the two minute and 48 second video a couple of times, then started to read the article from The Colorado Independent by Susan Greene. I am a very composed person so I had to put all other emotions aside while I read this article to get every detail about how my son was treated while in custody at downtown Denver Detention Center after many months since this incident happened.

Isaiah’s family is his voice, so today I, his mother, am giving our family a voice. We knew nothing about this incident until last night. He was silent and it appalls me because he is a private person and now again he is part of a very serious problem. He was a young man dealing with mental stress as you see in this short video and only a few knew what he has been dealing with and that he was trying very diligently picking up pieces of his life. As I read further, I re-read how the staff at The Colorado Independent has edited a 40-minute video to keep what dignity Isaiah has out of the public. As for me, I pray to gather the courage to sit and watch every second that my son was mistreated and stripped of his dignity and trying to just survive each minute and maintain mentally. His pain is our pain. Our hearts are broken and the hurt is deep.

Really, It took six to eight officers to hold down our son, brother, nephew, grandson, cousin and friend after being tasered? Did the officers ever consider my son’s other physical injuries? How long was my son left sitting in the restraint chair? And yet this isn’t considered “punishment?”

Is it a death that should open our eyes to this disgusting and despicable behavior from the Denver Sheriffs? Not for me — the mother of Isaiah — or his family. We are the tax-paying citizens who appear in court to make sure the justice system treats them properly, support our incarcerated by visiting, accept their phone calls, put money on their accounts and pray daily for their well-being.

We the citizens of Denver need to hold the Denver Sheriffs accountable for their behavior and not allow constant justification for their behavior.

Amen to Mayor Michael Hancock for demoting Gary Wilson. At least Wilson, who was demoted rather than fired, still has a job. Other companies have zero tolerance for this behavior.

Today, Sergeant Ned St. Germain is appealing this decision of his 10-day suspension without pay that happened in April. What is he really appealing? Suspension without pay or his pride and dignity? My son, Isaiah has dignity too! He deserved to be treated with respect.

Yvette Moreno and Family