AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) — On Friday, the mother of Elijah McClain and Attorney Mari Newman were shown a photo of Aurora police officers reenacting the chokehold used on McClain, who later died. The officers were in uniform — and they were smiling.
The Aurora Police Department says the photos were taken months after the incident, in October 2019.
After seeing the photos, the McClain family released the following statement:
“Just when you think the Aurora police cannot get any worse, they reach a new low. This is a department with police who tackled an innocent young black man, inflicted fifteen minutes of multiple kinds of excessive force, including two carotid chokeholds, who stood over him joking, ‘Don’t get that on me’ while he was vomiting from the pain, and threatened to sic a dog on him because he wasn’t lying still enough while dying. This a department that exonerated all of the officers who killed Elijah McClain and those who failed to intervene to stop the torture. This is a department that spewed pepper spray on peaceful protesters and mourners playing their violins as a tribute to Elijah’s life. Now we learn that this is a department where uniformed police officers feel empowered to make a mockery of killing an innocent young black man by returning to the scene of Elijah’s murder at the hands of fellow APD officers to take photos of themselves laughingly reenacting the chokehold used to murder Elijah. They then shared their mimicry of Elijah’s murder with their fellow APD officers as a department-wide joke. APD’s conduct is no different than that of white supremacists of at the height of the Jim Crow South who snapped smiling pictures of themselves at the scenes of brutal, lethal lynchings of black men, keeping the images of torture as souvenirs or even turning them into postcards to send to friends.”
On Friday, two of the officers in the picture were fired. The third resigned on Thursday.
Jason Rosenblatt, one of the three Aurora police officers involved in the encounter with McClain was also fired Friday. The interim chief confirmed Rosenblatt had no part in the taking or distribution of the photos, but they were sent to him, and he replied with an inappropriate response.
Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson said Rosenblatt replied, “Haha.”
At 3 p.m., members of McClain’s family and the community planned to gather to honor his memory and to express their outrage at the City of Aurora. They plan to meet at the intersection of Evergreen and Billings in Aurora, where the incident occurred.
Police contacted 23-year-old McClain in August 2019.
McClain was walking home from a store where he purchased tea for his brother. 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.
McClain later went into cardiac arrest and died at the hospital three days later.
The three officers involved in the incident surrounding McClain’s death were removed from patrol duty in June.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said the City of Aurora is reconsidering their use of ketamine.