FILE PHOTO: Noah and his older sister visit a mural of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after an encounter with police officers, ahead of the one year anniversary of his death in Denver, Colorado, U.S., August 8, 2020. Picture taken August 8, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt//File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Colorado police officers did not have a legal basis to stop, frisk or restrain Elijah McClain, an independent investigation found 18 months after his death. 

Using body camera footage of McClain crying out in pain and apologizing, members of the Independent Review Panel commissioned by the city found that Aurora police and paramedics made consequential errors in nearly every stage of their interaction with McClain and that the detectives investigating the incident exaggerated descriptions of a violent struggle to exonerate the officers involved.

McClain died after being placed in a chokehold by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics to calm him down. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was taken off life support by his family days later. McClain’s death and several others sparked protests last summer. 

None of the officers identified any kind of crime before making contact with McClain and paramedics sedated the 140-pound McClain with 500 mg of ketamine, a dose suited for someone weighing around 200 pounds, “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation,” the report found.

The report noted that officers were not questioned about their conduct or justification for their actions during internal reviews of McClain’s death. The report stated that officers stopped McClain even though none of the officers articulated what crime they believed McClain had committed. The Adams County District Attorney opted to not file criminal charges in November 2019 against any of the officers or paramedics involved.

The investigative panel was not tasked with concluding whether the officers committed crimes or violated policies, but instead, with investigating the response from police and fire personnel, create a timeline of events and write a report with recommendations. Investigators recommended that the department review policies, improve accountability and clarify the transition of an individual from suspect to patient when emergency medical services are called.

McClain’s parents both said they were pleased by the findings. “They’ve got a bunch of problems in Aurora, and they can’t keep hiding,” LaWayne Mosley, McClain’s father, said

Elijah’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said she felt good knowing that “my son’s name is cleared.”

“I had lost hope, but today gave me some hope,” she said. “I feel good knowing that everybody can see the truth now, that Aurora, Colorado, does employ killers, and they do what they can to cover it up.”

The Aurora Police Department saw a 20% personnel turnover rate in 2020, a 60% increase from 2019. The department faced heavy scrutiny for tactics used during protests in memory of McClain, while three officers were fired for taking and sending a photo mocking McClain’s death at a memorial. One officer involved in McClain’s death, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired for responding “Haha” to the photo. Neither Rosenblatt nor officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, who were also involved, received punishment for McClain’s death.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Independent review faults Aurora police for stop preceding Elijah McClain’s death, subsequent investigation – The Colorado Sun – 2/22/2021
Aurora police officers were too quick in their decision-making when they stopped Elijah McClain in 2019 in an encounter that preceded his death, according to an independent review of the fatality. And then investigators did a poor job of documenting the incident, the report solicited by the city says.

Outside investigators highly critical of Aurora police, firefighters in all aspects of Elijah McClain death – Sentinel Colorado – 2/23/2021
The assessment concludes that police and firefighters did not have the authority nor justification to stop, hold, arrest, subdue, choke or medicate McClain. […] The report is critical of nearly every action first responders carried out as they first contacted McClain while he was walking home from a north Aurora convenience store in the 1900 block of Billings Street.

Aurora’s PR Disaster Over Scathing Elijah McClain Death Report – Westword – 2/23/2021
Aurora is in full scramble mode following the February 22 release of a scathing report regarding the August 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain following a controversial police encounter that’s been described as more than fifteen minutes of torture.

Independent Investigation Finds Police Had No Legal Basis to Restrain Elijah McClain – Complex – 2/22/2021
The three men claim McClain was wearing a mask, which vaguely fit the description of the individual that they were looking for, but their other reasons for detaining McClain involved him acting “suspicious,” and being in an area with a “high crime rate.” The investigation states that whenever an officer uses “forceful techniques” on someone, then their decision to conduct an investigatory stop based on reasonable suspicion generally leads to an arrest. In McClain’s case, the three cops couldn’t check off any of these boxes, which leads one to question how the investigation carried out by the department’s detectives in the Major Crimes Unit didn’t reach these conclusions. 

Investigation Into Elijah McClain’s Death Concludes Cops Had No Justification To Stop Him Or Use Force – Blavity – 2/22/2021
The report, which was revealed on Monday, questioned the initial stop, stating that “none of the officers articulated a crime that they thought Mr. McClain had committed, was committing or was about to commit.” […] The officers, who choked him after responding to the call, said he resisted arrest and grabbed for a gun. Body camera footage, however, showed that the Colorado man did neither. Investigators have now provided more evidence to refute the police statement.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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