Marvin Booker wanted to get his shoes. Faun Gomez, a Denver Sheriff's Deputy and Intake Officer at the Van-Cise Simonet Detention Center, couldn't fathom such a request from a detainee. As Marvin turned to retrieve them, she rushed him from behind. This set off an altercation. Within moments, Gomez, Sgt. Carrie Rodriguez, and deputies James Grimes, Kenneth Robinette, and Kyle Sharpe went hands-on.
Tackling him, the five deputies forced him into a prone position and slumped their combined weight of more than 1,000 pounds on the back of the 56-year-old, five-foot-five, 135-pound "pastor to the people." Marvin was restrained in a chokehold and nunchucks were used on his legs. After they shackled him, one of the deputies shouted, "tase his ass, tase his ass!" A series of sharp, staccato blasts erupted from the taser used by Sgt. Rodriguez. It brought a tragic end to a very one-sided affair.
At approximately 3:35am on July 9, 2010, video cameras inside the downtown detention caught the beating and subsequent death of Marvin Booker. According to detainee, John Yedo, "What I saw is not what you'd expect to see in America." After the subsequent Internal Affairs Investigation, none of the deputies received any disciplinary punishment for their actions.
Instead of being allowed to retrieve his shoes, Marvin Booker was murdered.
After no indictments or disciplinary actions were taken by the City of Denver against any of the Sheriff's involved, the justifiably distraught Booker family hired the law firm of Killmer, Lane and Newman, to represent them. They eventually filed a civil rights lawsuit. The City of Denver, convinced that Marvin was to blame for his own death, refused to settle with the deeply religious Booker family, and the family refused to yield.
In riveting interview after interview with Marvin's mother, his sister, his four remaining brothers, along with clergy, friends, and witnesses to the event, repeatedly corroborate the narrative surrounding Marvin's death.
Marvin did not die because of his conduct, but because of the misconduct of the sheriffs who killed him, and a city administration that repeatedly "departed from the truth" to roadblock the Booker family, making it nearly impossible for them to gain closure for their beloved son, and brother.
The city administration and the local mainstream media continued to label Marvin as "a homeless, street preacher." According to Marvin's younger brother, the Rev. Spencer Booker, how the City and the media portrayed Marvin, "made him seem less than human."
Who was Marvin Booker?
Marvin had many friends from Beale St. to boardrooms, and each communicated how Marvin not only touched their lives but shared valuable wisdom with them.
In preparation for our interviews in Memphis earlier this year with Marvin's family and friends we, received this e-mail from Webb A. Brewer, an acquaintance of his. Mr. Brewer's words paint a vivid picture of Marvin. We have yet to come across a better description of him. We want to share this with everyone so they too can understand who Marvin was, and shed some much needed light as to the events that led to his death that morning in the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center. We plan to interview Mr. Brewer, on our next trip to Memphis:
I am out of town this weekend attending to a family matter, but wanted to share a thought about my friend.
Like others you have heard, I knew Marvin the last few years he was in Memphis. Like others, I felt I had a special affinity with him,
Marvin was a Dude, in the finest sense. We shared a love of clothes and he always wanted to model his suit for me when he was especially "clean."
Which brings me to the point I wanted to make. Marvin had a remarkable sense of personal dignity for one who wore the label of a "homeless person" and all that went with it. No shuffling, eyes-averted, head down posture for Marvin- he carried himself with pride in the most humiliating situations. I will never forget that about my friend.
When I brought myself to watch his death and saw the woman officer rudely grab his arm, I understood that Marvin HAD TO jerk his arm away, which led to his death. His sense of self and dignity REQUIRED it. Just as all the other young Black men killed by police MUST react defiantly when confronted with rude "get your ass over here" commands from peckerwood police officers.
"We'd rather die on our feet, Than keep living on our knees. SAY IT LOUD, I'm Black and I'm proud."
Marvin was a performance artist- he had memorized all of Dr. King's speeches and could recite them powerfully and movingly. Yet, he was constantly rousted by the police in Memphis - for "panhandling." I am a civil rights lawyer, and when Marvin would talk to me about this subject, his voice would rise and he would tremble with anger.
Brooke Sarden, my friend and colleague, implored me to challenge the constitutionality of the Memphis panhandling ordinance. Marvin went to Denver, and I never did it. When I heard of his death, I vowed to do it as homage to Marvin. I am ashamed to say that it remains undone. But- now is the time.
RIP, Marvin Louis Booker, you died on your feet.
The Backstory About the Project
Many people have suggested that this is a "passion story" of mine. I strongly disagree. This story isn't about me. Based on the evidence we've uncovered, It's about how the Booker family's faith, character, and love for one another allowed them to overcome indignity, fear, and disrespect to find solace and come to grips with Marvin's death.
In beginning to work on this project, I spent many hours in the federal courtroom listening to both sides present evidence during Marvin's 2014 civil rights trial. Marvin Booker's name never became a national rallying cry for police reform like Michael Brown, who's family has filed a civil rights lawsuit, or Eric Garner, who's family recently settled. In Marvin's case, the City of Denver refused to settle. They spent four years putting up walls in its efforts to stall the family's pursuit of the truth.
It's important that we bring balance to this project. We have already conducted numerous interviews with City of Denver administrators, and we have several more lined up. We still have many people to speak with in multiple cities, so travel is crucial for our team to investigate the events surrounding Marvin's life and death. It is our belief, and our responsibility to present a balanced story.
Another part of the production focuses on what transpired in the Internal Affairs investigation of the Sheriff's involved, and the civil trial. The attorneys for the Bookers, Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, have been steadfast in their involvement in the project.
Our team believes it is our duty to allow the viewers of the film to decide, discuss, and debate what the system did to Marvin, and by extension, the Booker family. Our suspicion is that this is not an isolated incident. We're certain this happens within a national context of abuse, affecting victims' families in cities across America. We hope the film sparks a much needed, deeper, and lasting discussion on the issue of excessive force. One aspect of our audience outreach efforts is to have the story help bring about reform.
From Bootstrap to Kickstarter
Our Kickstarter campaign is necessary for us to complete our feature length documentary, "Marvin Booker Was Murdered." The Booker family resides in Memphis, TN, and St. Louis, MO. While we personally funded our first trips to each city, in addition to our first Denver interviews, we need to travel back to both Midwest cities for additional interviews, and B-roll too. We also have to travel to L.A. for an essential interview with an ex-Denver Sheriff's Deputy who testified at the trial. Additionally, we need to travel to Washington D.C. to interview the gentleman at the Department of Justice who wrote the decision letter stating why the D.O.J. won't investigate the Denver Sheriff's Department over the incident. Finally, we have to cover expenses for equipment rental, archival footage, and our first stages of editing.
Please help by taking part in "Marvin Booker Was Murdered." We need your support. Our goal is $12,000, which is our minimum, but we really need more. So please be generous, and help us meet and exceed our goal!!! A few thousand dollars over our budget would dramatically help us enhance production quality with additional equipment and crew. We look forward to keeping everyone updated.
We are raising funds to complete production. We need to raise $12,000 for this stage. Our expenses will cover our need to travel, equipment rental, archival footage, and our need to continue our editing efforts as we move closer to post-production.
Dan Ketchum • DP, Editor
Karen Cruz • Producer
Dr. Mark Prather • Producer
Wade Gardner • Director, Writer, Producer
Risks and challenges
We realize and acknowledge that there are many risks and challenges in making our film. Based on our research, and the discussions we've had with many in the documentary world, we accept that as a first time feature length documentary filmmakers, we do not have a track record in which to point out our ability to complete a feature film. That's a risk. Yet, it's also a motivating challenge our team will see through to the end.
Some would say we should ask for more. What we say, is that we are confident with our DIY mentality - if we don't get the bare minimum needed, we will still find a way to make the film. In the last eight months, our team has accomplished a lot. We garnered genuine love and support from the Booker family, aided by an "all-in" mentality from all of the key individuals who have become instrumental to the story. We will work even harder once we have the strong wind of funding behind our backs!
It is important that we raise funds to complete travel, continue to have access to the right equipment, and make the best film we can.
The risk of "first-timers" is also why we immediately arranged, and then traveled to St. Louis, and then Memphis to interview the Booker family. With the "all-in" pledge from Darold Killmer, and Mari Newman, the attorneys who represented the family, we were able to build the right relationships, and gain an amazing amount of momentum that has not slowed. These essential connections, along with the legwork we have completed, have allowed us to minimize risk. We have gained access to the right people, so we can tell the best story imaginable.
Our biggest challenge has been making sure we are making a film that is balanced. In addition to working with those on the "Booker side of the ledger," we sought out those on the "City of Denver" side.
We realize that at some point, we will face turbulent waters. We've done great navigating the river these last eight months. When the inevitable rapids arise, we will face them head-on. We won't panic. We have a wealth of family, friends, and community behind us. We won't let any of our funders down. We will complete "Marvin Booker Was Murdered." We've positioned the project so that our funding will go to specific endeavors, not fishing expeditions.
Should anyone have any direct questions about the project feel free to contact me directly.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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