There’s still no report from the FBI or the Department of Justice.
Just over three years ago — August 16, 2010 — Denver Mayor and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper called for an FBI investigation into the beating of Michael DeHerrera at the hands of several Denver Police officers. Three years later, a resolution or report remains lacking.
The 2009 beating was caught by the city’s HALO surveillance cameras, and became public almost a year after the fact. When the video finally hit the public realm, it became national news almost overnight.
Three years of an investigation without any kind of final report or decision doesn’t sit well with the most vocal critic of the incident, Michael’s father Anthony DeHererra. Anthony DeHererra is also a deputy with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, and celebrated his 25th year on the force this summer. Furthermore, Anthony believes without hesitation that the call for an FBI investigation from gubernatorial candidate Hickenlooper was nothing more than a calculated public relations chess move while on the campaign trail.
Michael DeHerrera settled with the City of Denver, and has quietly gone back to work, trying to put the beating behind him. Instead, it’s his father who won’t let the ordeal be forgotten, especially as the fate of the careers of two officers involved have gone on a difficult-to-follow carousel of hearings, disciplinary rulings, firings, and rehirings.
Compare the lengthy DeHerrera investigation with that of another man who alleged abuse at the hands of Denver Police, Alex Landau. According to a timeline of events provided by the Denver Police website for the Landau case, the Denver Department of Safety first learned of the FBI-DOJ investigation into the Landau case in May of 2012. By February of 2013, less than one year later, the DOJ announced there would be no charges against any of the officers involved. The investigation began and ended in less than one year. (While it’s possible the FBI-DOJ investigation into the Landau case started earlier than before the Department of Safety became aware, it’s also unlikely.)
As Anthony looks back on it all, no agency, politician, or cop is safe from his analysis, and that even includes himself. “I’ve changed the way I police. I’m more willing to listen,” he says. Anthony’s work as a deputy seemed to throw a monkey-wrench into the usual narrative by giving the victim a strong and vocal advocate who couldn’t be accused of being anti-cop: he was a cop.
But giving an interview by phone last week from his Pueblo home, Anthony minced no words.
As for the man who was Mayor, but now is Governor of Colorado:
“We tried to talk to Hickenlooper right away, right after the incident [in 2009]. [The administration] just continually ignored us, never called us back, and he continually ignored us until he could use our situation for his own political gain, running for Governor. Then he starts chiming in he wants an FBI investigation, and he never followed through either.”
“The FBI washed their hands of us right away. They’ve actually had the video since August of ’09 when I contacted my FBI officer down here in Pueblo and then he forwarded it to Denver.”
And as for the new Mayor? DeHerrera says Michael Hancock had a golden opportunity to bring sweeping changes to the Denver Police Department, but alleges he squandered those chances.
As CompleteColorado.com has pointed out before, the calendar year of 2009 not only included the DeHerrera incident, it was also the year approximately 32 people involved in gang activity started beating and assaulting random individuals near bars in LoDo. In that year, then-Mayor Hickenlooper’s calendar never showed a meeting with Manager of Safety Al LaCabe. However, one calendar entry did show Hickenlooper creating office time to be briefed one-on-one with Chief Whitman, just before Hickenlooper was slated to appear on the Caplis and Silverman radio show. Host Dan Caplis had been highly critical of of the Hickenlooper administration for allegedly allowing the DPD to pursue a strategy in which they did not announce the dangers to the public as soon as they knew they were dealing with a pattern of violent crimes. CompleteColorado.com has also produced the only documentation proving that DPD linked the beatings weeks before any kind of alert or notice was issued to the public.
Although they draw completely different conclusions from the incident, the Denver Police Protection Association and Anthony DeHerrera agree that the call for the FBI investigation had more to do with appearances. “This is a case where elected officials are using the media for political grandstanding. It’s hard to say, but it’s as plain as the nose on my face,” Vince Gavito, vice president of the Denver Police Protection Association told 9News. “The officers had due process. It’s over. It’s done.”
The FBI referred our questions on the status of the investigation to the Department of Justice. The DOJ has not responded to our requests for comment.
Todd Shepherd is the investigative reporter for the Independence Institute, and the founder of CompleteColorado.com. Send him tips at CompleteColorado@gmail.com.
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