AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson used the same words many in the public have to describe the actions of some of her officers, starting with “sickening.” Wilson fired three police officers and another resigned, amid an investigation into photos showing some in uniform mimicking the chokehold used on Elijah McClain during his arrest.
“We are ashamed. We are sickened. We are angry,” Wilson said. “I am disgusted to my core.”
Wilson said she intentionally expedited the internal affairs investigation and chief review processes after learning the photos, which were taken in October of 2019, existed.
PHOTO GALLERY: Elijah McClain Rally After Aurora Police Officers Fired
“They reenacted the carotid control hold which was administered on Elijah,” Wilson said.
McClain died days after an encounter with police in August of last year.
Wilson told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas the officers in the photos took them near the memorial for McClain, and sent them to at least one officer who was involved in the arrest of McClain. Wilson said the photos were sent in an effort to “cheer him up.”
“It is a crime against humanity and decency. To even think about doing such a thing is beyond comprehension and it is reprehensible,” Wilson said. “It shows a lack of morals, value and integrity. And, a judgement that I can no longer trust to allow them to wear this badge.”
Officers Erica Marrero, Jaron Jones and Kyle Dittrich were the ones seen smiling in the two photos released. Jones was the only of the three to resign before being given termination notice. Jones was the one with his arm around another officer’s neck. All three were fired for conduct unbecoming.
“I appreciate you realizing what you have done, and what a despicable act, and what you have brought upon this nation, this family. And, you have embarrassed law enforcement yet again,” Wilson said of Jones.
A fourth officer was also fired. Officer Jason Rosenblatt was terminated after responding via text to the photos with “haha.” Rosenblatt was one of the three officers who was involved in McClain’s arrest.
“To say ‘haha’ when he was engaged in the incident with Elijah McClain is absolutely unacceptable,” Wilson said.
Another officer who was involved in McClain’s arrest was sent the photos, but did not save or respond to them.
The police union issued a statement to CBS4 arguing the chief violated the fired officers’ rights to due process. The union accused her of taking swift action and not giving officers enough time to prepare to defend themselves.
Wilson said the officers brought the profession as a whole down, and couldn’t allow them to wear the badge of Aurora police.
“There are cops that have integrity. They understand duty and honor. These four don’t get it,” Wilson said.