(CBS4) — Tuesday marks two years since Elijah McClain‘s encounter with Aurora police officers. He died six days later, on Aug. 30, 2019.
McClain was walking home from a convenience store when someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. McClain was wearing a black ski mask, which family members said he did because he was anemic and tended to get cold. He stood 5-foot-6 and weighed 140 pounds. He was not armed with any weapons.
Arriving officers tried to arrest McClain and said he resisted. Officers then put him in a carotid hold, which has since been banned, and he was tackled to the ground.
Captured on police body camera footage, he tells officers that he’s an introvert and “different” several times. Later, while officers talk to each other about what happened, McClain says he doesn’t believe in guns, doesn’t kill flies or eat meat and that “you are all phenomenal, you are beautiful.” They didn’t respond.
Eventually, an Aurora Fire Department paramedic injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative, at a much higher dose than appropriate for his size. He suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital and was taken off life support days later.
The three officers involved in McClain’s death were removed from patrol duty in June 2020. They have not been charged, but one, Jason Rosenblatt, has since been fired.
An independent review, released in February 2021, was highly critical of how Aurora Police and Aurora Fire paramedics handled the interaction with McClain.
“Elijah McClain should still be here today,” said Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. “I will hold myself and our officers accountable.”
A separate grand jury investigation into McClain’s death is also underway on the state level.
On Monday, McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain shared the following quote on Facebook:
“His legacy has to be about what’s right in this world, but, unfortunately, his death is highlighted by what is wrong in the world. Elijah’s legacy is about how humanity matters, how our lives matter.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator, also wrote the following on Tuesday in a Facebook post:
“Two years ago today, Elijah McClain was stopped by police while walking home. 6 days later he was taken off life support. Nothing will bring him back, but we can take action to make sure Black and brown Americans can live safely in their communities. Rest in power, Elijah.”
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District which includes Aurora, wrote on Facebook:
“Two years ago today — we failed Elijah McClain. Out of that failure, there’s been action. But nothing will bring him back. Today is a day for mourning & reflection. It’s for holding ourselves accountable. And it’s about remembering the bright light that was Elijah McClain.”