Michael DeHerrera beating: Cop Devin Sparks fired (again), Randy Murr reinstated (again)

As we've reported, Denver cops Devin Sparks and Randy Murr have been suspended, fired and un-fired since the April 2009 on-camera beating of Michael DeHerrera, who was attacked by Sparks while using his cell phone; see the video below. Now, the Civil Service Commission has rendered the latest judgment on the officers' actions: Sparks has again been fired, while Murr, who was also involved in the brutal assault on Alex Landau that same year, has been reinstated.

The investigation into the attack on DeHerrera, which was captured by HALO cameras outside 5 Degrees, a Lodo club, while he was in the company of a friend, Shawn Johnson, took a long time to get going. Finally, in August 2010, Denver Manager of Safety Ron Perea determined that Sparks and Murr should be suspended for three days without pay but not fired -- a conclusion so controversial that Perea subsequently resigned.

Cut to March 2011, when then-Manager of Safety Charley Garcia fired Sparks and Murr. However, they appealed the decision, and a hearing panel sided with them. Why? Because the cops had already accepted Perea's punishment (by not appealing the decision during a prescribed period), Garcia's move to sack them for the same offense represented the equivalent of double jeopardy.

DeHerrera was surprised and confused by this turn of events, as he told us in September 2011. "I knew it would be a long process," he conceded, "but everything seemed so clear. The video speaks for itself, so we thought everything was laid out for things to happen smoothly and efficiently. But we've gone through two internal affairs investigations and so many appeals. And when things go on like this, some people give up and go away. They don't want to deal with it anymore. They want to get back to their lives; they lose hope and don't see any chance for a positive outcome."

Little did DeHerrera know that additional delays would drag the case out for another year and a half. But now, the Civil Service Commission has issued a document entitled "Findings, Conclusions, Decision and Order," which goes through the DeHerrera incident yet again before announcing its final determination.

The "Findings of Fact" section maintains that on the night in question, DeHerrera and Johnson caused a stir at the club when both tried to use the women's bathroom. Bouncers subsequently escorted both of them outside, where they encountered Murr, who was working security at the venue in an off-duty capacity. The document says Murr asked DeHerrera and Johnson to leave, prompting physical contact of some sort, although witnesses can't agree on who did the pushing, shoving and/or striking.

In any event, Johnson was subsequently taken to the ground by one Gabriel Esquibel at Murr's instruction. Meanwhile, DeHerrera made a phone call to his father, a police officer himself. But the conversation was interrupted when Sparks, who arrived after the original incident, went after him in brutal fashion. The reason, the document suggests, is that Murr told Sparks DeHerrera had punched him earlier and needed to go to jail.

Continue for more about the firing of Office Devin Sparks, including photos, video and the complete decision.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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