The Senseless Murder of Elijah McClain
McClain was unarmed when he was strangled and injected with Ketamine.
Elijah McClain was an unarmed 23-year-old who was walking in the Denver suburb of Aurora on 24 August 2019. He was stopped by three white police officers on his way home from the convenience store.
A district attorney would later comment that there had been an emergency call about a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask. They would also go on to say, that when they confronted McClain he was not armed, and had not committed any crime.
The officers who approached him wished to search him. McClain resisted contact with the men by carrying on walking down the road. A struggle ensued. The officers wanted to search him for a weapon. It was reported afterwards that he had an open-faced ski mask on, as he suffered from Anaemia.
The officer’s bodycam footage would also show Mr McClain saying, “I’m an introvert, please respect my boundaries.”
One of the officers then says “he is going for your gun” and they wrestle him to the ground and put him in a chokehold. One officer applied pressure to the side of his neck to reduce blood flow to his brain.
This was the same technique, that later in the year would be used on George Floyd.
McClain lost consciousness, so was released from the hold. When he started to struggle again it was reapplied. After calling for assistance a fire medic then administered 500mg of Ketamine to sedate him. He was then restrained further, put on a stretcher and carried to the waiting ambulance. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and was declared brain dead on 30th August. His family reported at the time that he was covered in bruises.
His family would later allege that the officers used excessive force for fifteen minutes on him, despite him begging for help and being sick.
The family’s lawyer Mari Newman said footage of the incident showed that “the police were nothing short of sadistic, brutalizing and terrorising a gentle, peaceful man as he lay there begging”.
Who was Elijah McClain
McClain was described as an “angel among humans.” He played the violin and loved animals. He would often play music to the animals at the shelter where he worked. He said this was, “so they wouldn’t be lonely”.
His mother Sheneen McClain commented that he
brought joy to everyone who met him. The world is a darker place without him.
She said he loved running because of the sense of freedom it gave him, enjoyed drawing and had taught himself to play the piano, guitar, cello and violin.
The investigation into his death
In October the McClain family demanded an independent investigation be carried out, into their son’s death. They stated they believed that officers responsible should face murder charges. In November the Adams County DA would come back and state that he would not be charging the officers.
Based on the investigation presented and the applicable Colorado law, there is no reasonable likelihood of success of proving any state crimes beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
In January the city of Aurora launched an external investigation. They fired the lawyer leading it, who was a former police officer specialising in the use of force in cases. They stated there were concerns over his neutrality. Officers told the media that they would start a new review of the case, with a panel of experts from across the country.
Footage later released from the body cams of the police showed that officers stated that they had no reason to arrest McClain. He can also be heard saying that he could not breathe. He pleads with the officers to let him go to his house for ID, which was close. He can be heard sobbing and vomiting and then later apologising for this to the officers. Officers then threaten to set their dogs onto him.
Very little can be seen of the struggle as the body cams are laying on the floor during the altercation. Officers said that they fell off during the struggle. The full fifteen minutes of footage will show an Officer picking up the camera and another telling him to drop it and leave it there.
In a statement to CBS News, McClain family lawyer Mari Newman said Aurora
has no intention of taking responsibility for murdering an innocent young man. Its entire effort is to defend its brutality at all costs, and to lie to the public it is supposed to serve. — Source
Justice at last?
One of the officers involved in the incident has been fired, over a connection to photos taken at McClain’s memorial. In the images, he can be seen with his arm wrapped around another officers neck in a mock imitation of the hold used on McClain. Both Officers are smiling at the big joke.
Since McClain’s senseless murder the police department in Aurora has now banned the use of the chokehold.
Colorado is finally going to re-examine McClain’s death after growing outrage and a petition signed by more than two million people.
His case is among several to receive renewed attention following the death of George Floyd.
His mother commented: “He wanted to change the world,” his mother, Sheneen McClain, told Sentinel Colorado in October. “And it’s crazy because he ended up doing it anyway.”
In a series of tweets, Governor Polis said he had heard from many Coloradans who had “expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death. As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps.”
It remains to be seen if justice will be served this time as this case still has a long way to go.