DOJ looks into Elijah McClain’s death
A lawyer for the family of Elijah McClain says she has seen two photos that show three Aurora officers re-enacting a police chokehold that preceded his death, reports CBS Denver. The lawyer, Mari Newman, said all three officers were in uniform, and all were smiling, reports CBS Denver’s Brian Maass.
“The callousness for human life, appalling,” Newman told the station. She added that McClain’s family had also viewed the photos.The Aurora Police Department was set to give an update Friday into the investigation of the officers involved in the photographs, which the station reports were taken near the scene of McClain’s violent 2019 arrest. Aurora officers confronted the unarmed 23-year-old Black man on the street, and one of the officers put him in a chokehold after police said he tried to grab one of the officer’s guns. McClain was later sedated with ketamine and suffered a cardiac arrest. He died three days later. The Aurora Police Department says the photos were taken months after the incident, in October 2019. Maass reported the photographs were shared within the department. The photos have not been released.One of the officers depicted in the photos, Jaron Jones, resigned on Thursday. The department has said it placed three officers on leave over the photographs, but it’s not clear whether Jones was among them. The other officers involved have not been identified.The department’s interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, has promised to release the results of the department’s investigation and announce her decision on discipline. The officers involved in the fatal August arrest have been moved off regular duty. A special prosecutor has been appointed to review the case following outrage and protests. The Justice Department is also investigating possible civil rights violations.In a statement released to CBS Denver, McClains’s family said, “Just when you think the Aurora police cannot get any worse, they reach a new low.”Read the family’s full statement below:Just when you think the Aurora police cannot get any worse, they reach a new low. This is a department with police who tackled an innocent young black man, inflicted fifteen minutes of multiple kinds of excessive force, including two carotid chokeholds, who stood over him joking, ‘Don’t get that on me’ while he was vomiting from the pain, and threatened to sic a dog on him because he wasn’t lying still enough while dying. This a department that exonerated all of the officers who killed Elijah McClain and those who failed to intervene to stop the torture. This is a department that spewed pepper spray on peaceful protesters and mourners playing their violins as a tribute to Elijah’s life. Now we learn that this is a department where uniformed police officers feel empowered to make a mockery of killing an innocent young black man by returning to the scene of Elijah’s murder at the hands of fellow APD officers to take photos of themselves laughingly reenacting the chokehold used to murder Elijah. They then shared their mimicry of Elijah’s murder with their fellow APD officers as a department-wide joke. APD’s conduct is no different than that of white supremacists of at the height of the Jim Crow South who snapped smiling pictures of themselves at the scenes of brutal, lethal lynchings of black men, keeping the images of torture as souvenirs or even turning them into postcards to send to friends.