Amid calls for justice for people who have been victims of police violence and racial profiling including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, there’s a new name that has surfaced. This time it involves a year-old case out of Colorado involving a young, Black man who died while being detained by police.
At least two million people have signed a petition calling for law enforcement officials in Aurora, Colorado to reopen an investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old who died in August 2019 after police officers stopped him, according to USA Today.
McClain, whose name has not been previously included in the long list of Black fatality victims at the hands of racial injustice, 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 the all too familiar cry, “I can’t breathe,” USA Today reports. An officer on the scene even says, “if you keep messing around, I’m going to bring my dog out and he’s going to bite you."
According to police, in an ambulance one of the paramedics said that McClain was not breathing and had no pulse. Three days later, he was declared brain dead and an autopsy as to the cause of his death was found inconclusive.
“Whatever the report says, it’s clear that if the police had not attacked Elijah McClain, he would be alive today,” Mari Newman, an attorney for his family, told TheCut.com.
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. Since that time, Young. has chosen not to reopen an investigation.
"I don't open up investigations based on petitions," Young told Colorado Politics. "Obviously, if there is new evidence to look at, I will look at the evidence in any case."
Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly, who oversees city operations, said that an independent investigation of McClain’s death would be undertaken.
“We have watched the events over the last several days and it has become clear that public trust has been eroded,” council members Allison Hiltz, Curtis Gardner, and Angela Lawson said in an email to Twombly, according to the Sentinel. “We know that the status quo is no longer acceptable in our criminal justice system. Our community has experienced pain and as leaders it is our responsibility to take the first step in restoring public trust.”
Photo Credit: Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty Images