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Court Orders Denver Police Officers Reinstated In DeHerrera Beating Case

DENVER (CBS4) - Ten years to the day that a young man claimed he was beaten by Denver police officers, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ordered the reinstatement of officers Randy Murr and Devin Sparks to their jobs. The officers were let go for their actions in the arrest of Michael DeHerrera in April 2009 outside a nightclub downtown.

Police Brutality Video Allegations
Mayor John Hickenlooper asked the FBI to investigate a case that divided a top law enforcement official and an independent watchdog over whether Denver officers caught on video aggressively subduing a man should be fired. Michael DeHerrera said in a lawsuit against officers and the police department that he was slammed to the ground and repeatedly beaten after screaming for help as his companion was forced to the ground by police. (credit: CBS)

The video of the incident combined with the light punishment at the time set off a public outrage. The officers were seen confronting then 23-year-old DeHerrera. He was talking with his father on a cellphone at the time. Sparks was seen throwing DeHerrera to the ground and then striking him several times.

Michael DeHerrera
Michael DeHerrera (credit: Denver Police Department)

Both officers were initially given punishment involving loss of three days pay. That led to community meetings and protests that eventually led to the resignation of then Manager of Safety Ron Perea.

DeHerrera and his father, Anthony DeHerrera, met with the mayor, police chief and many others. Eventually the punishment was rescinded and new Manager of Safety Charles Garcia ordered the two officers fired. The decision by the Court of Appeals overturned the firing because the court found that the second manager of safety involved in the case did not have the authority to increase the punishment under the city charter.

Michael Deherrera
Michael Deherrera on Tuesday (credit: CBS)

Anthony DeHerrera, Michael's father, told CBS4 he is furious with the decision. He says he is hoping the Denver City Attorney will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to take the case.

"I feel like I have been punched in the gut again, especially since it was 10 years to the day of the beating," he said.

The Appeals Court wrote, "We are acutely aware that this result means that the officers essentially escape the consequences of their conduct, a result that is directly contrary to what the facts compel."

The Denver City Attorney's Office told CBS4 that it is reviewing the decision and released a statement that reads in part, "The City is extremely disappointed and shocked by the Court of Appeals ruling, which effectively overrules previous decisions in its favor by the Denver District Court and Denver's Civil Service Commission. The City can seek rehearing by the entire Court of Appeals or ask the Colorado Supreme Court to review the decision, but at this point the City Attorney's Office, the Department of Public Safety, and Denver Police Department still need to confer about next steps."

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