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Independent monitor criticizes Denver sheriff's department over death of inmate Michael Marshall

Posted at 8:35 AM, Mar 19, 2018

DENVER -- The Denver Sheriff Department mishandled the investigation into the 2015 death of jail inmate Michael Marshall, and public safety officials made such flawed disciplinary decisions that it failed to hold accountable the deputies and sergeants involved, according to a new report by Denver’s police watchdog.

The scathing, 73-page report from independent monitor Nick Mitchell raises questions about the department’s ability to investigate itself and whether it is taking proper steps to reform, and it provides insight into why the city likely was willing to pay $4.6 million to the Marshall family before a lawsuit had been filed.

The report also paints a picture of safety officials so out of touch with the gravity of the incident that the first deputy to wrestle and pin Marshall to the floor was nominated for a life-saving award even though Marshall had died, according to a copy obtained by The Denver Post.

In the Nov. 11, 2015, incident, Deputy Bret Garegnani performed CPR on Marshall after the inmate lost consciousness, but the former safety director gave Garegnani a 16-day suspension for continuing to apply pressure on Marshall’s upper body even after nurses asked him to ease up for fear Marshall could aspirate on vomit.

Garegnani’s sergeant wrote in a nomination form for the department’s Life Saving Award, “Deputy Garegnani is ultimately responsible for prolonging the life of Michael Marshall, which allowed for those valuable moments that the Marshall family ultimately had with Michael and will forever be grateful to Deputy Garegnani,” according to a footnote in the monitor’s report.

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