Alonzo Ashley, killed at the zoo two years ago, will be remembered today

It is going to be hot today. It was a hot day two years ago, when Alonzo Ashley was at the Denver Zoo, went to get a drink of water at the fountain, and set off a chain of events that resulted in his death at the hands of the Denver Police Department, which used a contact-taser to subdue Ashley. Suffering respiratory arrest and a heart attack, he died on the spot. To honor his memory today, the Ashley family will be in front of the zoo at 2300 Steele Street from noon to 5 p.m. today with supporters, giving away water bottles on the anniversary of his death.

Despite conflicting reports on what happened that day -- initially the DPD said officers were responding to a domestic violence complaint, but Ashley's girlfriend denied that -- in January 2012, the eight officers involved were cleared of any wrong-doing by the Denver Manager of Safety:

Based on a careful review of the facts, a comprehensive analysis of the polices and the law, and a consideration of the recommendations of the OIM (Office of the Independent Monitor) and the Chief of Police, the Manager concludes that the officers did not violate DPD's Use of Force policy, any other Department rules, or any laws with regard to the use of force. Therefore, disciplinary sanctions will not be ordered. Ashley's death is tragic. However, it was both unintended and not the probable consequence of the force used by the officers.

Last July, the family sued the Denver Police Department, the Denver Zoo and numerous employees of both in connection with Ashley's death. That case is still pending.

In the meantime, Ashley's family has planned today's action. Here's the announcement:

On Thursday, July 18, the Alonzo Ashley Family, supported by Colorado Progressive Coalition (CPC), will provide zoo goers with bottles of water and hold a community potluck in memory of Alonzo Ashley. Still seeking justice for the homicide of her son by Denver police officers who tased him, Gail Waters, Ashley's mother, is also requesting that the Denver Police Department create new training programs for officers dealing with individuals suffering from heat stroke and other maladies.

Roughly 30 people are scheduled to attend the event and will pass out water bottles in front of the Denver Zoo, starting at noon and going until 5 p.m. Family, CPC members and community will have a potluck starting at 5 p.m. to celebrate his life and will create a memorial in his honor. Speakers will start off the memorial creation and potluck at 5 p.m and will include Anne Dunlap, Nancy Rosas, Terrance Roberts, CPC members with members of the Ashley family in attendance.

The Alonzo Ashley Family continues to seek justice for Ashley, an African American resident of Denver who died after being tased by Denver police officers. Ashley had been suffering from symptoms consistent with that of a heat stroke and was seeking a drink of water. When he tried to cool himself in a water fountain he was approached by security. This touched off a series of events in which Ashley appears to have exhibited confused behavior due to the apparent heat stroke. The tragedy then culminated in the use of excessive force by police officers used to restrain Ashley that included the use of a taser and brute force; this force was ruled by the coroner to have caused Ashley's death.

"We stand and fight in solidarity with the Alonzo Ashley families and all other families who have been denied justice through our laws," said Tania Soto Valenzuela, CPC's racial justice organizer. "We continue to demand justice for Ashley and other families. We demand that all systemic elements of racism are addressed in our legal system and that all members of our community are treated equally under the law."

Speakers will be on hand this afternoon to talk about Ashley's death; the potluck will follow from 5 to 7 p.m. More from our archives: "Alonzo Ashley anniversary vigil and anti-police brutality rally."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun