“If we don’t like what we see in the first two or four years, we’ll take you out of here,” were the words following a forum by Alex Landau who was beaten by Denver Police in 2009 leaving him with severe injuries. His attackers were never charged by the District Attorney’s Office and he has since worked for reforms in both the police department and the District Attorney’s Office including a recall petition against DA Mitch Morrissey last summer. The petition gathered over 20,000 signatures. Landau has been involved with hosting “meet the candidates” gatherings with community organizations in recent weeks.
The race for Denver’s next District Attorney is in full force one year before the race will be decided. Tuesday night the candidates presented their positions in a community forum hosted by the Colorado Independent.
A current prosecutor in the Denver District Attorney’s office, Kenneth Boyd faces University of Colorado Regent Michael Carrigan, and Colorado State Legislator Beth McCann. Chief Deputy District Attorney Helen Morgan announced her candidacy last month but did not appear at last night’s forum.
Police violence against the Denver community was the central topic and the conversation heated a degree when Kenneth Boyd challenged the other candidates for coming to the forum unprepared. Michael Carrigan and Beth McCann said that they had read reports but had not looked into the files of the most recent police fatal shootings of 17-year old Jessica Hernandez who was killed by police on January 26, 2015, and 35-year old Paul Castaway who was killed on July 12, 2015.
Live questions were taken from the audience in contrast to written questions handed to a forum monitor for sorting and possible censoring. One question came from Lynn Eagle Feather, mother to Paul Castaway, “I want to know why that the cops after they shot him up in the torso, why they handcuffed him, turn him, roll him over and sit on him as he’s dying. And his last words were, ‘What’s wrong with you guys?'” The question was left unanswered by candidates.
Only issues in high profile cases were discussed where the shootings of Ryan Ronquillo and Joseph Valverde were not raised. Both were fatally shot on the same day, July 2 2015 in different locations of the city. The mothers of the four Denverites who were fatally shot between July of 2014 and July of 2015 have been meeting regularly with other mothers to provide support to each other but also to plan next steps in their search for accountability. All four mothers are pursuing legal action.
Those working for police reform who spoke to KGNU said that they were not particularly hopeful with the current options for candidates although legal representative to Lynn Eagle Feather, Elisabeth Epps said that she was impressed at the progress that Beth McCann has made in educating herself about police violence issues in the city compared to earlier meetings that she had had with her.
The Colorado Progressive Coalition has scheduled a DA candidate forum for MLK Day in January to which all four candidates have confirmed. Buried Seedz of Resistance that organizes to support those in the LGBTQ community who experience disparate numbers of police violence, has planned teach-in forums during the upcoming months regarding the reach of District Attorney authority.