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Film details death of street preacher at hands of Denver jail guards

Excessive force by police is a national hot topic.

There is hardly a day it doesn’t make the news.

In Albuquerque, the Police Department has had its share of excessive force cases.

Wade Gardner can’t wait to screen his film, “Marvin Booker Was Murdered,” during the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience. The film will screen at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, at the African American Performing Arts Center.

The film is a labor of love for Gardner.

It follows Marvin Booker, a 56-year-old black homeless street preacher. Before being processed into the Denver jail, Booker wanted to retrieve his shoes. Instead, five Denver jail guards beat the man to death.

The event was captured on video and witnessed by more than 20 people, yet the deputies were never indicted or reprimanded.

The story reveals how the devout Booker family, based in Memphis, along with their two Denver-based attorneys and citizens from both cities, sought to restore Booker’s constitutional rights. Their efforts culminated in a 2014 federal civil rights trial that resulted in a groundbreaking decision affirming that Booker’s constitutional rights were violated.

“Denver has a long history of law enforcement use of force,” he says. “This goes back to 2000. Marvin was killed in 2010. When Marvin was beaten to death by the five guards, the community said, ‘Enough is enough.’ Denver was rated one of the highest cities with use of force.”

Gardner took a little over two years to tell the story.

He had access to information from the city and the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

“I was able to wrangle interviews from the all sides,” he says. “Part of the reason they allowed me such access was that I was the first knucklehead to approach them and follow through. From the city side, I don’t think the city realized that I was going to follow through and tell this story.”

Gardner is excited to see the response to the film when it screens in Albuquerque.

“I know Albuquerque has had its share of problems,” he says. “I feel a kinship with the city.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.