Federal officials have revealed that they have been investigating the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora, Colorado police since last year, although news of what happened to him has only widely surfaced after the recent slaying of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Denver Division of the FBI announced in a news release on Tuesday (June 30) that the recent attention being paid to the case prompted them to publicly state that their query is underway.
The purpose of the federal probe, authorities said, is to determine if there are grounds for a federal civil rights investigation into the case.
“The standard practice of the Department of Justice is to not discuss the existence or progress of ongoing investigations, the joint statement said. “However, there are specific cases in which doing so is warranted if such information is in the best interest of the public and public safety. Recent attention on the death of Elijah McClain warrants such disclosure.”
The Justice Department claims that the City of Aurora is cooperating in the investigation as further information is gathered.
McClain, 23, was reportedly walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019, when police responded to a call of a “suspicious man” with a ski mask. Officers say he resisted their warning and tried to grab a gun from one of them forcing them to have to detain him by placing him in a chokehold. Three days later, he was declared brain dead.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed the state’s attorney general Phil Weiser to reopen the investigation into McClain’s death last week.
Aurora Police are also reportedly investigating an incident in which three of their officers posed for photos at the location where McClain died.
"Thursday afternoon, I was apprised of allegations reported to Internal Affairs by an Aurora Police Officer alleging multiple Aurora Police officers were depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died,” said Aurora PD interim police chief Vanessa Wilson. “All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.”
Federal investigators said they are also monitoring the results of that investigation as well, which will also help determine the possibility of a civil rights investigation.
“We are also aware of recent media reports about Aurora police officers being placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into a photograph in which those officers appeared. We are gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted,” the Justice Department statement said.