Crime

Marquise Harris Was Suing the DPD When He Was Murdered: His Brother Has Questions

A family photo of the late Marquise Harris.
A family photo of the late Marquise Harris. Courtesy of Dedrick Harris
Marquise Harris was shot to death in Denver last month; since then, no arrests have been made in the case, and the Denver Police Department has not released any information about possible suspects. His brother, Dedrick Harris, wonders if this lack of progress — and what he characterizes as poor communication about the investigation — could have something to do with the fact that he and Marquise had sued the DPD over separate arrests involving the brothers, both of which were captured on video.

Dedrick, who says his lawsuit is still pending, also raises concerns over the time it took for Marquise to receive treatment for his wounds. "The area he was shot in was the same one where the officers we had the lawsuits against worked," he says. "And by the time they called me, he had passed away. I asked, 'Why did it take you so long to contact me, and who were the officers on the scene?,' because I have a feeling they played a role in delaying medical attention to him."

Technician Jay Casillas, a DPD spokesperson, insists that officers sought care for Marquise as quickly as possible and are still on the case. "The Denver Police Department commits significant resources to investigating every homicide, and follows up on every actionable lead to identify and arrest the individual(s) responsible for the crime," he says. "The department’s commitment to seeking justice for victims and victims’ families is no different in this case."

First word of the incident came at 9:08 a.m. May 5 via the Denver Police Twitter account: "DPD is investigating a shooting in the 8800 block of East 12th. One adult male victim located, transported with unknown extent of injuries. Investigators are working to develop suspect info." Several hours later, an update revealed that "the adult male victim has died as a result of this shooting; no arrest(s) at this time."

On May 10, the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner identified Marquise as the victim. "The cause of death is from a gunshot wound. The manner of death is homicide," according to the office's release.

The information provided to Dedrick so far isn't much more detailed. "They told me he got shot in the chest and the head, and they wouldn't tell us anything else except that they did some electronic search warrants on two cars," he says. In a subsequent conversation, he adds, a detective told him: "'Don't expect any arrests to be made in the near future.' I asked him, 'What do you mean the near future?' And he said, 'Today, tomorrow — don't expect him to be arrested over the weekend.' It's been over two weeks since he said that, and those people are still running around out there."

As for who those people might be, Dedrick can only speculate. He says that assorted gang members have had beef with Marquise ever since he testified against Willie Clark, who was convicted of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams in 2007; Marquise had shared a cell with Clark and said that he'd written a confession letter. But Dedrick also suggests possible involvement by police officers, though he offers no evidence to support that.

In June 2020, Marquise spoke to Westword about the lawsuit for a story titled "Video: Denver Cop Pulls Down Man's Underwear During Improper Arrest." His complaint names several Denver police officers, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and others.

The first arrest detailed in the complaint took place on November 6, 2018. Marquise was walking home from a basketball game through an alley behind the 1100 block of Xenia Street, near where he lived, when "all of a sudden I hear a car driving at a high rate of speed coming behind me," he recalled. "I turned around and briefly stopped. At first I didn't realize it was the police, until they got closer, and an officer, a white officer, jumped out of his vehicle and said, 'How are you doing?' I said, 'What the fuck are you stopping me for?' and started walking off."

At that point, Marquise continued, the officer said, "Stop," but he kept going, eventually breaking into a run, even though he hadn't done anything wrong. He explained the decision by pointing out that "in the last couple of years, it's not a good idea to be in an alleyway with a police officer, even if it's in the daylight." He also had a large amount of cash in his pockets: approximately $3,000 from a recently settled case in Adams County.

During the pursuit, Marquise maintained that the officer "was fabricating as if I was reaching for a gun," even though he was actually pulling up his pants, which he wore sagging below the waist. Then, Marquise said, "he jumped onto my back and put me into a chokehold and we went into a spin — and then other officers rammed my face into the side of the car and they pulled me off the ground and started searching me."

Here's video of that arrest:
After being placed in the squad car, Marquise was told by the officers that they'd witnessed him conducting two separate hand-to-hand drug transactions — an accusation he called "complete fiction." He was also accused of having falsely identified himself as Dedrick, which he also denied.

Charges of interference with a police officer and false information against Marquise were subsequently dismissed by a Denver County Court judge, who found no reasonable rationale for the arrest in the first place.

Several months later, on March 1, 2019, Dedrick was taken into custody while waiting to get his car serviced; related charges against him were subsequently tossed, too. Marquise suggested that Dedrick's arrest was harassment aimed at him, since it was conducted by the same officers who'd hassled him earlier and were the focus of a damning report he'd already made to the Denver Police Department.

Continue to see video of Dedrick's arrest:
Today, Dedrick is frustrated by the state of the investigation into his brother's slaying. "I'm in the process of trying to get body-cam videos now, but they're refusing to release them to me until they arrest someone," he says "Marquise made a 911 call, also, and they won't release that, either. They won't even call me to come down to the police station and talk about what could have happened. They notified me over the phone, and the way they put it to my family was, 'It is what it is.'"

In response, DPD's Casillas emphasizes that "the investigation is ongoing and detectives are working to gather more information to identify the suspect(s) involved in this case. If anyone has any information that can assist in this case, they are encouraged to contact Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP(7867). Tips can be shared anonymously."

Click to read the Marquise and Dedrick Harris 2020 lawsuit, the judge's order dismissing the original charges, and Denver District Attorney Beth McCann's letter declining prosecution.
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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