More than 2 million people have signed an online petition calling for Colorado officials to reopen the investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in August after he was stopped by Aurora police officers who used a carotid hold on him.
The petition calls on Adams County district attorney Dave Young, Mayor Mike Coffman and the Aurora Police Department, to conduct “a more in-depth investigation” and remove the officers involved from duty.
Around 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019, McClain was walking home from a convenience store, according to the petition.
The Aurora Police Department received a call of a “suspicious man” wearing a ski mask, according to a release
The caller told a 911 operator that a man, later identified as McClain, “has a mask on” and “he might be a good person or a bad person.”
The caller said that no weapons were involved and when asked if he or anyone else was in danger, the caller can be heard responding, “no.”
According to the body camera footage, that officer then puts his hands on McClain, saying “stop tensing up,” while McClain replies, “let go of me.” The two other officers then appear to put their hands on him at this point too, the video shows.
McClain tells the officers he was “going home.”
. Officers tried to stop McClain, who they said was “actively resisting” and trying to grab one of their guns. They put him in a carotid hold, applying pressure around his neck, restricting blood flow to the brain.
McClain briefly went unconscious. The fire department and paramedics were called to assist and injected McClain with ketamine to sedate him.
In the more than three hours of body camera footage of the arrest, McClain can be seen being held down on the ground, vomiting, sobbing and saying, “I can’t breathe.” At one point, an officer also tells McClain: “If you keep messing around, I’m going to bring my dog out and he’s going to dog bite you.”
“That comment has been addressed with that officer through a written corrective action,” he said. “I do want to provide an apology to the family because when they saw that and heard that it was something that really disturbed them greatly and to that, again, I do very much and sincerely apologize.”
McClain was loaded into the ambulance where the paramedic determined he was not breathing and did not have a pulse.
He was declared brain dead three days later. An autopsy was unable to determine if his death was an accident, due to natural causes or a homicide. The Adams County Coroner’s Office report listed several contributing factors including the combination of intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery.
The district attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges in November. A police force review board said in February that the officers had a lawful reason to contact McClain and that the use of force during the altercation, including the carotid hold, “was within policy and consistent with training.”
The Sentinel reported that McClain’s death sparked protests at city council meetings, but in the wake of Floyd’s death the case has seen renewed interest. Earlier this month, McClain’s mother said Coloradans engaged in “selective protesting.”
“I cannot speak on George’s death because Colorado didn’t care about Elijah’s death,” she told The Sentinel. “Colorado fails in accountability for their own residents but urges justice for someone in a Distinct ZIP code.”
The district attorney’s office has received thousands of emails and calls and the police department has received hundreds of complaints.
“I don’t open up investigations based on petitions,” district attorney Young told Colorado Politics. “Obviously, if there is new evidence to look at, I will look at the evidence in any case.”
The city manager selected an investigator to conduct an external review of the case, but the mayor announced last week that the city terminated its contract with the appointed investigator, who was an attorney and an former police officer.