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The Cops Who Put Elijah McClain Into a Chokehold Are Finally Being Investigated

The 23-year-old Black man, who was unarmed, died at the hospital days later.
June 25, 2020, 5:44pm
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There may be Justice For Elijah after all.

Ten months after Elijah McClain died after police placed him in a chokehold hold during an attempted arrest, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is opening an independent investigation into the death of the 23-year-old unarmed Black man in the city of Aurora.

Polis made the announcement on Twitter Thursday, following weeks of nationwide outcry scrutinizing the initial investigation. More than 2.6 million people signed a petition on Change.org demanding that the three officers, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema, be taken off duty and that a second, more thorough investigation be held.

“I am hearing from many Coloradans who have expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death,” the Governor tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps.”

“Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever,” he continued. A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical.”

All three officers involved in the arrest that killed McClain were placed on administrative leave following the incident in August 2019. Three months later, the local district attorney Dave Young announced that the officers and paramedics who failed to save him after he went into cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital, would not face criminal charges. As of the investigation's announcement, the officers remain on the force.

On August 24, 2019, three white officers confronted McClain after receiving a 911 call about a suspicious man walking down the street wearing a ski-mask and waving his arms. Police began to subdue the McClain, who was unarmed when he verbally resisted the confrontation and continued to go about his way.

McClain fainted at least once after one of the officers placed him in a carotid hold. Body camera footage of the arrest later showed that McClain pleading with officers to reconsider their actions and let him go home peacefully.

“I was just going home,” McClain can be heard saying. “I’m just different, I’m just different, that’s all, that’s all I was doing. I’m so sorry.”

When officers called paramedics in to help subdue McClain, they gave him a dose of the drug ketamine, a sedative which is often used to induce a trance-like stance. Soon afterward, he went into cardiac arrest. He was declared brain dead three days later and died on Aug. 30.

McClain’s tragic death is one of many fatal police incidents to receive national attention months after local authorities have failed to bring sound, swift and conclusive ends to their investigations.

Last month, the February slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery received nationwide scrutiny following the release of video footage of the shooting, which eventually led to the arrest and recent indictment of the father and son who murdered Arbery.

An investigation into the March shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in Louisville was in limbo until millions of people online began to pick apart the case. Since then, least one of the officers was fired from the job.

Incidents that have been ignored for even longer, like the 2018 police shooting of Marcus-David Peters in Richmond, Virginia, have also come to light in recent weeks when families and activists called for police to change the way they carry out arrests.

Cover: LaWayne Mosley, left, father of Elijah McClain, speaks during a press conference in front of the Aurora Municipal Center October 01, 2019. (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty Images)