AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Family and friends of Elijah McClain say they want Aurora police officers involved in his death to be fired and investigated for murder. Elijah, 23, was killed in August after officers allegedly placed him in a chokehold. He was not armed with a weapon.
He was confronted by officers on Aug. 24 after a call to report a suspicious person wearing a mask near Colfax Avenue and Billings Street. He was walking home with groceries while wearing a ski mask at the time, something his family said was not uncommon as they say he was anemic and frequently felt cold.
McClain’s parents, alongside attorney Mari Newman, were allowed to watch the body camera video under the agreement they would not record or release the video. They were also able to listen to the 911 call, in which a passerby reported his behavior as odd.
“Elijah McClain had no weapon, and that is what the 911 caller said,” Newman, of Killmer, Lane & Newman LLC, said. “(Police later) slammed him up against a wall. They tackled him to the ground. And, they continued to terrorize and torture him.”
Aurora Police declined to interview on the matter, citing the open investigation. However, in a statement posted online, the department said McClain initially did not cooperate with officers, something the family disputes.
“The male began to resist the officer contact, a struggle then ensued, and he was taken into custody. Aurora Fire Rescue administered a standard medication to reduce Mr. McClain’s agitation,” the department wrote.
Newman said the conduct of the officers was suspicious. Three officers who responded had their body cameras recording. However, all three were “dislodged,” only leaving audio recording of the struggle. Newman suggested the officers potentially removed their cameras intentionally, citing a time in the video which one officer tells the other, “Move your camera, dude.”
Newman said McClain asked for space, confused by the reason for the police response. She said officers placed McClain in a chokehold at least twice, a practice which has been banned by other Colorado police agencies.
“We hear him begging. We hear him identifying himself. We hear him saying, ‘I’ve got my ID,’” Newman said. “He’s saying, ‘I can’t breathe.'”
Newman said McClain was 130 pounds. She said three officers, including one that was possibly double McClain’s weight, laid on him. At one point McClain started vomiting, Newman said, as a result of the chokehold he was in.
“It was difficult. It was very hard to see how everybody reacted inhumane. It was like there was no real compassion or concern,” said Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother.
A spokesperson for Aurora Police said they would not release any body camera video until the investigation was further complete.
“The Adams County Coroner’s Office report is not yet completed and is a key component to providing much needed information to this investigation. Once their report is finished, the Coroner’s Office will be the ones who release those results,” the statement said.
McClain, who did not have any prior arrest record, died at an area hospital several days after the police incident. His family said they would not accept apologies, prayers or a cash payout as justice for their son.
“He was a happy young man, he was always energetic,” Sheneen said.
“(Officers) will be held accountable for what you’ve done,” said LaWayne Mosley, McClain’s father.
McClain’s family, and their lawyer, have asked police to turn the investigation over to an independent investigator. Currently, according to Newman, the case is being investigated by Denver Police.
The McClain family said they respected police in general. However, they believed Aurora Police should fire those involved in this incident.
“We do not think it is fair for those who murder with the badge to continue to hide behind those committed to honoring the badge,” one community leader said.
Newman said the family supported the release of the video to the public, against the current wishes of Aurora Police.