McClain died in August 2019 at age 23 after he was placed in a chokehold by police for 15 minutes. He was stopped by police while walking home from a convenience store in Colorado. In the police body camera footage, which can be seen here, McClain can be heard pleading for his life, telling officers he can’t breathe, and stating that he is unarmed.
Here’s what you need to know:
All Involved Officers Are Placed on Immediate Administrative Leave With Pay, Authorities Say
Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said in a statement released on June 29 that “all involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.”
The statement reads:
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 #ElijahMcClain died. All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.
I immediately ordered Internal Affairs to make this investigation their top priority. This accelerated investigation was completed this evening.
This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion. This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.
CBS4 Denver’s Brian Maass reported “the photos were disseminated within @AuroraPD to other officers and showed the officers reenacting the hold that preceded McClains death.”
McClain’s Cause of Death Remains Undetermined, But His Family Want an Independent Investigation
An autopsy report carried out on November 7 said McClain’s cause of death remains undetermined, according to Denver7.
Shortly after paramedics arrived and administered ketamine to McClain, he suffered a heart attack and died. Denver7 said the “autopsy report references multiple abrasions on the victim’s face, back and legs. It also references some hemorrhaging around his neck.”
“The Adams County Coroner says they can’t determine whether Elijah McClain’s death was an accident, was due to natural causes, or is a homicide related to the police department’s use of a carotid hold,” according to Denver7.
Nearly four million people have signed a petition which called for an independent investigation into the death and for the officers to be taken off duty.
The Sentinel Colorado reported in June that City Manager Jim Twombly was mandating a new policy banning police carotid control holds in the city after Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on June 9 “introduced a policy directive banning the controversial carotid holds, which involve officers applying pressure to the side of a person’s neck — not their throat — to briefly prevent blood flow to the brain.”
The Aurora City Council “introduced a city ordinance that would codify a ban on the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds by Aurora police,” the Sentinel reported.
The change.org petition is “demand[ing] …. that a more in-depth investigation is held.” In an interview with The Global Dispatch, Elijah McClain’s younger sister, Samara McClain, called the incident a case of police brutality.
McClain Was Wearing a Ski Mask & Bringing Tea Home From a Local Store When He Was Stopped by Police
McClain was carrying tea home from his visit to a convenience store when he was detained by police, who claim he resisted them, Aurora7 said.
Aurora7 reported McClain was detained by police after “they had received a call about a suspicious man wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.” The change.org petition states that as McClain was anemic, he “preferred to wear a ski mask to keep his face warm while he was walking.”
Police body camera footage shows McClain refusing to stop and telling the officers, “I have a right to go where I am going.”
When the officers approach to physically stop McClain, he can be heard saying, “I am going home … leave me alone … please respect my boundaries that I am speaking,” before he is placed in a chokehold.
Reports emerged on social media that a peaceful vigil held in McClain’s memory on June 27 was disrupted by riot gear-clad police officers who “fired foam rounds at protesters, hit them with pepper spray and, in one case, rolled a canister of some sort of gas into the crowd.”
The Guardian said police pepper-sprayed protesters but reported that the “Aurora police department said officers did not use teargas on demonstrators.”
Aurora Police said on Twitter the crowd had armed themselves with rocks and sticks.
The Aurora Police Department told Heavy that officers used smoke canisters, not tear gas, on protesters and declined further comment on the incident.