AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Friends and coworkers of Elijah McClain are relieved to finally see calls for justice getting louder as the City of Aurora and the State of Colorado move toward independent investigations into his death. McClain died in August 2019 after an altercation with Aurora police.
“Just a bright kid in a beautiful place, he helped a lot of people. He was a beautiful person,” said James Vigil who was a massage therapist with McClain at a Greenwood Village Massage Envy. “What happened was a horrible crime to him.”
On Thursday, Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a written statement, “Elijah McClain should be alive today. His life mattered and his death was tragic. The pain, frustration, and anger that his family and many Coloradans are feeling from his death is understandable and justified. Whenever someone dies after an encounter with law enforcement, the community deserves a thorough investigation. Our investigation will be thorough, guided by the facts, and worthy of public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
“This man was a peaceful man and that’s how I want to remember him,” Vigil said. “They killed my friend, I want justice.”
More than three million people have signed a change.org petition Justice for Elijah McClain. Aurora City Council members say they’ve received tens of thousands of calls, emails, and social media posts echoing that call.
“Better late than never. I’d rather something happen than nothing at all. I’m grateful,” Vigil said. “Only until George Floyd that we had the opportunity to bring it back up. For everybody who didn’t know, he was just a beautiful soul. He shined out bright every day regardless of everything that was going on around him. I miss my friend. I’ve been through this nine months ago and it feels like we’re reevaluating the exact same situation. I just hope this time we get justice.”
McClain was stopped by police after a suspicious person call into 911. A physical struggle ensued. McClain was held down by three officers and then administered Ketamine to sedate him. He died a week later.
“Did I watch those videos? I’ve watched them to the point where they make me sick. I feel like he was wronged the whole time. He was taken to the ground, choked out twice, threatened for a dog to be brought in and bit him. Who the hell does that? That’s an act of terrorism.”
Vigil says coworkers and clients still talk about McClain, “Elijah is an angel here on earth, that he walked around brightening people’s days and lightning them on peaceful things, and that was taken away and I feel like we’re all wronged about that.”