Three Aurora, Colorado police officers were fired Friday (July 3) for sharing images of themselves reenacting a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street in the Denver suburb.
One of the fired officers, Jason Rosenblatt, who is white, helped stop McClain in August while responding to a call of a “suspicious man” with a ski mask. Officers claim he resisted their questioning and tried to grab a gun from one of them, prompting them to restrain him in a chokehold. Three days later, he was declared brain dead.
Vanessa Wilson, Aurora’s Interim Police Chief, told reporters on Friday that officers shared the photos with Rosenblatt and others to “cheer up a friend,” according to The Associated Press. Rosenblatt replied to the texted pictures, writing, “Haha.” Officer Nathan Woodyard, who put McClain in a chokehold, also received the photos, but was not disciplined because he did not respond.
Officers Kyle Dittrich, Erica Marrero, and Jaron Jones were seen smiling and mockingly putting each other in a chokehold in the October photos taken near a memorial for McClain. Dittrich and Marrero were the other two officers fired while Jones resigned earlier in the week.
An internal investigation has reportedly begun.
“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said, The AP writes.
The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs are “a crime against humanity and decency.”
McClain’s death is just one of many that has sparked outrage nationwide and a legacy many are including in their protests against police brutality and demands for criminal justice reform. In several places across America, chokeholds have been banned.
McClain’s family, friends, and community activists in Colorado noted during a rally that justice was more swift over the mocking photos than the use of force that led to McClain’s death. The two other officers who stopped McClain are still on the force.
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Photo: Aurora Police Department