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Denver DA Disappointed With Homicide Declaration In Zoo Death Report

DENVER (CBS4)- Prosecutors won't file charges in the death of a man who died after scuffling with police and security guards at the Denver Zoo.

The coroner classified his death as a homicide, which Denver's District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is not happy about.

"To use that, that's a flash term, that makes people angry," said Morrissey.

On July 18, police in Denver were called to the zoo on reports of a man, Alonzo Ashley, who was exhibiting bizarre behavior and had attacked and bit a zoo employee.

"It says in black and white, homicide," said Ashley's brother Lindell Ashley.

For three months, Ashley's family has argued police killed the 29-year-old man when officers tried to restrain him at the Denver Zoo.

Alonzo Ashley (credit: CBS)

The coroner's report does characterize Ashely's death a homicide, but the coroner calls it a "medical judgement." He states it is not meant to suggest there was intent to harm or use excessive force or legal culpability, but that it is a homicide.

The DA is not filing criminal charges in the case, either against the zoo security guard or the witnesses that got involved or the eight Denver Police officers.

"All of those people acted in a reasonable and justified way with restraint to try to control this man," said Morrissey.

The coroner's report states Ashley died from cardio respiratory arrest and no sudden death. There were minor blunt force injuries that could have been contributed to the scuffle with security and police beforehand. Toxicology results found Ashley had marijuana in his system, but no other drugs.

"The appropriate classification is that "undetermined" should be the classification he uses here," said Morrissey.

Morrissey suggests the coroner made his classification based on a guide from the National Association of Medical Examiners where it states if law enforcement uses restraint, a homicide classification can be used to reduce public perception of a cover up.

"He should be making a homicide determination based on what he finds in the autopsy based on what he understands the facts to be, not to impact public perception," said Morrissey.

CBS4 attempted to contact Dr. John Carver with the Medical Examiner's Office several times Friday afternoon regarding an explanation. The office closed at 4 p.m. and Carver did not return any calls.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the police department will conduct an internal investigation with a final review by the Denver Manager of Safety.

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