Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has appointed the state’s attorney general to reopen the investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man from Aurora, Col., who died last summer after police placed him in a chokehold.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today. His life mattered and his death was tragic. The pain, frustration, and anger that his family and many Coloradans are feeling from his death is understandable and justified,” said Attorney Gen. Phil Weiser in a statement. “Whenever someone dies after an encounter with law enforcement, the community deserves a thorough investigation. Our investigation will be thorough, guided by the facts, and worthy of public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
McClain was reportedly walking home from a convenience store on August 24, when police responded to a call of a “suspicious man” with a ski mask. Officers detained McClain by placing him in a chokehold. Paramedics arrived on the scene and injected him with a large dosage of ketamine for the purpose of sedating him.
Body camera footage shows McClain being wrestled to the ground, vomiting, crying and gasping “I can’t breathe,” as police detained him. Three days later, he was declared brain dead and an autopsy as to the cause of his death was found inconclusive.
But McClain’s mother Sheila pointed her finger directly at the officers who arrested him as being responsible for his death. "They murdered him. They are bullies with badges," she said, according to CBS News. She said her son was a massage therapist, who "wanted to heal" others. "He was able to accept love and give love in varying forms."
In November 2019, Dave Young, the district attorney in Aurora declined to charge the officers involved in the exchange. After a February 2020 police force review board inquiry, it was determined that officers had a lawful reason to engage McClain and that use of force "was within policy and consistent with training," the Colorado Sentinel reported.
But after a petition was reportedly signed by almost 3 million people, Polis was moved to take a new look at the case. In addition, Young’s office has received more than 10,000 calls and 2,000 emails, asking for the three officers linked to McClain’s death to be removed from the Aurora Police Department, CBS Denver reports.
McClain’s family attorney Mari Newman blasted Aurora Police and joined others in their calls for the officers to be held accountable.
She told ABC News his death is "one of the many, many examples ... of an innocent young person who was absolutely minding his own business and was doing nothing wrong and was murdered by law enforcement."