Millions Demand Justice for Elijah McClain Following Death in Police Custody

By Shani Saxon Jun 25, 2020

Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced on June 24 that his administration will launch an investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man killed in August 2019 following an encounter with police officers, CNN reports. The announcement came after millions of people signed a petition demanding an independent investigation into McClain’s death.

Reports CNN:

On August 24, 2019, McClain was stopped by three White officers as he walked home from a convenience store, after a 911 caller described a "suspicious person," according to a police overview of the incident. McClain resisted officer contact, the report says, and a struggle ensued. On one of the officers’ body cameras, McClain is heard saying, "I’m an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking." Body cam video shows McClain telling officers that he was trying to stop his music to listen to them, then they begin to arrest him. One officer is heard telling another, "He just grabbed your gun, dude." 

According to an overview of the incident that police provided to CNN, an officer placed McClain in a chokehold, causing him to briefly lose consciousness: 

They released the hold, the report says, and [McClain] began struggling again. When paramedics arrived at the scene they administered ketamine to sedate McClain, the report said. According to a letter from the district attorney, McClain suffered a heart attack while in the ambulance, and he was declared brain dead three days later. An autopsy did not determine a cause of death but listed intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery as contributing factors, according to the police overview. The coroner found the amount of ketamine in his system to be a therapeutic amount.

In addition to Polis’ new investigation into this case, the city of Aurora is planning its own investigation, according to CNN. "The mayor, City Council and city manager are working to initiate a new independent, external review of the actions of police, firefighters and paramedics in the Elijah McClain case,” a state official told CNN. "We are considering a team of experts from across the country to be involved and provide insight from different perspectives, but the exact participants have not been selected yet."

Mari Newman, an attorney representing the McClain family, is calling for charges to be brought against the officers involved in McClain’s death. "He was an angel among humans," Newman said of McClain while speaking to CNN via Denver’s KCNC. "He would go to play his violin on lunch hour to animals who were waiting to be adopted so they wouldn’t be lonely."

Newman added, "It shouldn’t take millions of people signing a petition, and it shouldn’t take international media attention for elected officials to do their jobs."