The Denver District Attorney declined to charge the police officers involved in the death of a mentally ill man named Michael Lee Marshall, prompting the family to call for a federal investigation on Friday, KDVR reports.
The incident occurred in November 2015 when Marshall–a reported homeless paranoid schizophrenic–was arrested for trespassing. While in custody at the station, police claim Marshall refused to comply with their demands to remain in one area, leading them to restrain the 50-year-old for over ten minutes. Within that time, Marshall suffered a heart attack and became unconscious. He died at a local hospital nine days later.
“Denver Medical Examiner Dr. Meredith Frank performed an autopsy on Marshall and determined that he died from inhaling vomit into his lungs. She ruled the death a homicide,” according to the report.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced on Thursday the offending officers will not face criminal charges. Following a reported lawsuit from The Colorado Independent regarding the release of Marshall’s arrest footage and the family’s ten-day hunger strike, video of the encounter was finally made public.
The video is separated into three parts. The first shows Marshall in the Can Cise-Simonet Detention Center’s secure sally port with his paperwork, a blanket, and his shirt in hand. The mentally ill man looks disheveled as he walks back and forth before being restrained. The officer’s commands cannot be heard in the video.
The second shows the officers and medical employees placing Marshall in a restraint chair with his face covered by a mask.
The third video shows another angle from which paramedics attempted to revive Marshall after his heart attack.
Because it is unknown when exactly Marshall suffered the heart attack, Morrissey claims the officers’ actions cannot be blamed for the man’s death.
“This was not a situation where he was beaten, where he was choked, where he was ‘tased,’” Morrissey told FOX31 Denver.
“We felt that we couldn’t prove that the officers acted unreasonably with the use of force or the causation, that they cased, any one sheriff or all the sheriffs, caused his death.”
Morrissey also points to a portion of the video before deputies begin to restrain Marshall as an argument for why deputies did not directly cause the death.
“He starts to slide down the wall. And if you watch that in slow motion and you watch that very closely you’ll realize that is not a voluntary act. I think a jury would believe that he’s starting to have a heart attack at that point,” he said.
Marshall’s family disagrees. They believe the moment he was placed in the restraint chair and covered with a mask is more than likely the time he suffered the attack. They also believe police used excessive force against the 112-pound man.
“Michael Marshall is only the latest in a string of people who are maimed and killed at the hands of Denver law enforcement,” attorney Darold Killmer said. “It’s clear that Denver cannot be trusted to take care of its own business. It never has. It never will.”
Killmer and hired attorney Mari Newman say they will continue to fight for a federal investigation into Marshall’s death. The family is also considering a wrongful death lawsuit.