Denver inmate Michael Marshall on life support after confrontation with deputies at downtown jail

Family: Marshall suffers from mental disorder

DENVER - A Denver jail inmate is on life support at Denver Health following a confrontation with deputies at the Downtown Detention Center.

Family members tell Denver 7 that Michael Marshall suffered extensive brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

“He lost oxygen for about 10 to 15 minutes,” said Rodney Marshall, the inmate’s brother. “He’s in critical condition, on life support.”

Denver Sheriff Spokesman Simon Crittle said Marshall was arrested November 7, for trespass and disturbing the peace and was transported to the detention center.

“He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $100 bond,” Crittle said, in an emailed statement.

A law enforcement source told 7NEWS that on Nov 11th, Marshall began acting erratically and creating a disturbance on the 4th floor of the jail.  He said there was a medical emergency and that officers performed CPR.

Marshall was later transported to the hospital.

“We found out about the incident on the news this (Friday) morning,” said Marshall’s sister, Brenda Wright, “and we found out through a family member that he was in the hospital.”

Wright told Denver 7 that the hospital wouldn’t provide information about the patient and wouldn’t even confirm he was there, until family members paid his bond.

“I understand there’s a HIPPA law,” Wright said. “I understand you can’t release any information, but I just wanted to know what happened and where my brother was.”

She said her brother has suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia since he was 16.

According to the Mayo Clinic, schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally.  It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.

“He was at my house last week,” Wright said, “but he didn’t want to stay.  He went back to the Driftwood Motel, where he lived before.  He considered that his home.”

Wright said her brother caused some kind of disturbance at the motel and that police were called when he refused to leave.

“That’s why he was arrested,” she said.

Marshall had been in the downtown jail for four days when he began acting erratically, was confronted by deputies and suffered a medical emergency.

According to the Sheriff Department statement, Denver Police responded, which is standard protocol.  So did the Independent Monitor.

There is video of the incident, and it is being reviewed.

The statement also said that Sheriff Patrick Firman was present at the Detention Center following the incident and gives his assurance that a thorough internal review will be completed.

"We are committed to transparency and will cooperate fully with investigations conducted by outside agencies,” the statement said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Marshall, his family, and everyone involved, including our deputies, during what is a very difficult time," the statement concluded.

Family members say they hope investigators will be able to get to the bottom of what happened.

When asked if they think excessive force was used, Wright replied, “I can’t say anything about that right now, because I honestly don’t know. I have no information about that.”

Marshall’s niece, Natalia Marshall, said, “There should be a special protocol put in place for someone who suffers from a mental disorder.”

Natalia told Denver 7 that her uncle is not a violent person, but he does have a mental disorder.

“He’s not very tall,” she said.  “I’m taller than he is, and he only weighs 130 pounds.”

Rodney Marshall said that with the history of the department, he can’t help but wonder what happened.

“I don’t feel that a person should go to jail for a minor offense, like trespass or something and end up on their death bed,” he said.

The incident occurred as Denver leaders are making sweeping reforms of a sheriff's department that has been plagued for several years with issues ranging from excessive force causing death or injury, to theft by a top commander and allegations that the former second-in-command lied and gave preferential treatment to a captain accused of domestic violence.

The changes include bringing in Firman from outside the department, overhauling staff training and investing in the hiring of more than 100 new jail deputies. 

Marshall has a lengthy criminal history in Colorado dating back to 1993, including arrests for assaulting a peace officer, felony menacing with a weapon, resisting arrest and drug possession.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “People with ‘paranoid schizophrenia’ may spend a lot of time thinking about how to protect themselves from the person or people they believe are trying to harm them.”

The illness can make patients prone to anger, aggression, anxiety and social isolation.

Public records show that Marshall has lived at Monarch Manor, an assisted-living facility for seniors at 555 E. 11th Ave. in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

A public records database shows that Marshall is linked to a phone number for the St. Francis Center, a homeless shelter in Lower Downtown whose services include medical and mental health care.

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