AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – After nearly three months of asking for body camera video to be released to the public, the family of Elijah McClain says they are not settling with the recent release by Aurora police. McClain died following a police altercation, in which a passerby reported him as suspicious due to his mannerisms and the ski mask he was wearing.
A police officer in the released video acknowledges McClain, 23, was not doing anything criminal prior to the arrest. He was walking home with groceries.
Police reported a struggle between McClain and three officers upon making contact. One officer accused McClain of reaching for an officer’s gun.
Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz released the body camera video three months after the altercation, on Friday night at 7 p.m. Metz acknowledged the timing of the release could be seen as odd, but sourced the late announcement by the district attorney of his officers being cleared of any charges.
Metz said he promised to release the video as soon as that happened.
“(Releasing the video late on a Friday) is exactly what people do when they know they have done something wrong, and they want to avoid accountability,” said Mari Newman, a lawyer hired by the McClain family, on Saturday afternoon.
Newman, and members of the McClain family, have expressed concerns with the Aurora Police Department’s handling of the incident from the beginning. Though it is acceptable under Aurora police guidelines, the family noted McClain was placed in a carotid hold to try to subdue him two times. That practice has been banned by many Colorado agencies, as it restricts blood flow to the head.
McClain died several days later after being declared brain dead. Family members suspect the tactics by police, mixed with a drug injected by medics, caused his death.
The autopsy report from the Adams County Coroner’s Office declared McClain’s manner and cause of death undetermined. In the report, the coroner stated intense physical exertion and a narrow coronary artery contributed to McClain’s death. The report also stated that the ketamine concentration was at a “therapeutic level.”
The tactic, as well as the medication, were used after police say McClain refused to submit to their requests. Three body cameras on three responding officers dislodged, making the video of the interaction distorted.
“In no way do we want to do anything to vilify Elijah. We recognize that Elijah was in a distressed state, and we also recognize that this was a situation that resulted in tragedy with his death,” Metz said.
While the video was released, as requested by the family, Newman said the family was looking to take the department and officers involved to federal court over the matter. Some vocalized concerns over the fact a man could cause the cameras on three different officers to dislodge.
“(During the investigation) Elijah is laying on the ground literally begging. He is moaning. He is pleading,” Newman noted. “And what do we hear an officer say? ‘Move your camera, dude.’ Because, (the officers) don’t want to be caught. They don’t want to be held accountable.”
Aurora police, with the District Attorney Dave Young in agreement, cleared their officers of any wrongdoing in the investigation. As a result, the officers were returned to their patrol duties.
McClain’s mother told the public her son’s death should serve as a call to the community to unify and make sure lethal force isn’t used in situations which she described as unnecessary.
“What is divided will never stand. So, let’s get ourselves together and do something,” she said.