Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has opened a grand jury investigation into the death of Elijah McClain. Under executive order by Gov. Jared Polis, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office continues to conduct an independent investigation into the events of Aug. 24, 2019.
McClain was walking home from a store where he purchased tea for his brother that night in August 2019. A passerby called 911 and reported McClain was acting odd. McClain was not armed, and had not committed a crime.
Three officers responded to the call, and located McClain walking northbound near Interstate 225, he was wearing a mask.
McClain didn’t stop when officers told him to, later telling them he had his music on and couldn’t hear them. One officer grabs McClain, who asks the officer to respect his boundaries.
The officers claim McClain resisted arrest, and that he attempted to take one of their guns. Body camera footage does not capture evidence of McClain reaching for their guns.
McClain was placed in a chokehold, and tackled to the ground. Eventually he was given ketamine, a sedative, by an Aurora Fire Department paramedic. He died three days later.
According to Weiser’s office, “The grand jury is an investigative tool that has the power to compel testimony from witnesses and require production of documents and other relevant information that would otherwise be unavailable.”
McClain family attorney Mari Newman released this statement to CBS4 News, “There is no doubt that video itself provides probable cause to believe that Aurora police and medics committed multiple crimes when they killed Elijah McClain. Prosecutors are not required to use a grand jury and don’t in most cases, so we are forced to question whether this is yet another example of law enforcement being held to a different standard than every other person being investigated for murder. Prosecutors have considerable influence in whether a grand jury recommends criminal charges. But the grand jury process is cloaked in secrecy, and unfortunately, prosecutors frequently use grand juries as a way to pass the buck, steering the grand jury to decline to bring charges, or to bring only minor charges. If the grand jury in Elijah McClain’s case doesn’t indict the officers and medics responsible for killing him, it will be because the attorney general’s office did not want charges to be brought. That would be a grave injustice.”
The three officers involved in McClain’s death were removed from patrol duty in June 2020. They have not been charged.
One of the officers, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired over his response to a photo text message, in which three APD officers posed for a picture reenacting the carotid restraint used on McClain. The three fired officers have appealed their terminations.
The City of Aurora has asked to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McClain’s family. The dismissal filing claims that McClain’s death was not caused by deliberate and discriminatory actions by the Aurora police officers involved. Six officers are named in the lawsuit.
The city also filed a denial of wrongdoing in federal court as part of the civil rights lawsuit filed by McClain’s family. In the denial of wrongdoing, city attorneys claim officers were justified in stopping 23-year-old McClain as he was walking home in August 2019 — and in their use of the carotid hold, a subduing technique that was later banned by the City of Aurora.
The claim also denies wrongdoing on behalf of the Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics who sedated McClain with ketamine before he died.