DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday morning that a grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against the two Aurora police officers, a former Aurora police officer and two medics with Aurora fire involved in Elijah McClain’s death a little more than two years ago.
McClain was walking home from a store where he purchased tea for his brother in August 2019 when a passerby called 911 and reported McClain was acting odd. After a confrontation with police, McClain was placed in a chokehold, and tackled to the ground. Eventually he was given ketamine, a sedative, by an Aurora Fire Department paramedic. He died a few days later, on Aug. 30, 2019.
The officers involved were not charged by the Adams County District Attorney at the time. Weiser announced an independent investigation into McClain’s death in June of last year and announced the grand jury investigation in January.
The grand jury finished their work on Aug. 26 and the McClain family was informed on Tuesday of the indictments. When McClain’s father LaWayne Mosley was told about the indictments, he “wept tears of joy” according to the family’s attorney Mari Newman.
“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” said Mosley in a statement.
The two Aurora police officers and one former Aurora police officer, along with the medics from Aurora Fire Rescue face manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges.
The three police officers involved in McClain’s death were removed from patrol duty in June 2020.
One of the officers, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired over his response to a photo text message, in which three APD officers posed for a picture reenacting the carotid restraint used on McClain. The three fired officers appealed their terminations.
In February, the Aurora Civil Service Commission upheld the termination of those officers.
Those two police officers and two medics have been suspended from their duties without pay, as indicated in Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly’s statement, “City leaders thank the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the members of the Grand Jury for their commitment to a resolution. We respect the judicial process and ask that everyone else do the same. The city has cooperated fully with the Attorney General’s Office and its investigators throughout their thorough and thoughtful work, including their separate investigation into the patterns and practices of the APD, which is still pending. Pursuant to Aurora’s City Charter, any member of the Civil Service, which would include police officers and firefighters, indicted on a felony charge is immediately and indefinitely suspended without pay. This effectively separates the employee from the city of Aurora pending the outcome of the criminal case.”
The City of Aurora has asked to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McClain’s family. The dismissal filing claims that McClain’s death was not caused by deliberate and discriminatory actions by the Aurora police officers involved. Six officers are named in the lawsuit.
Earlier this year state lawmakers worked to pass yet another law that restricts the use of ketamine, the sedative used on McClain. Unless emergency medical technicians can take several steps to ensure the proper use of the drug, outside of a medical emergency it can no longer be used outside of a hospital.
Gov. Jared Polis released this statement after the grand jury indictment was announced, “Elijah McClain’s death was a tragedy and my thoughts are with his mother, father, friends, and family today. This innocent young man should be here today. I thank Attorney General Phil Weiser and the members of the Grand Jury for their work to hold those responsible accountable. I continue to urge my fellow Coloradans to consider how we can work together to build a better future where everyone can be safe walking home and a Colorado for all.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson released this statement, “I know this has been a long-awaited decision for Ms. McClain and her family. This tragedy will forever be imprinted on our community. We continue to offer our condolences for the loss of Elijah, and we will continue to cooperate with the judicial process.”
Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Fernando Gray released this statement: “For more than two years our community has grieved the death of a precious life. Our community demanded answers and continually questioned the circumstances surrounding Elijah’s death and we are committed to fully cooperating as the judicial process moves forward. We want to share again our deepest expression of sympathy to the family members and friends of Elijah McClain.”
The Aurora Police Association released this statement when Weiser announced the grand jury indictments: Immediately after Elijah McClain’s death, Chief Metz stated clearly that McClain was not murdered by our officers. Nothing has changed. Our officers did nothing wrong.
McClain died due to a combination of exertion due to his decision to violently resist arrest and a preexisting heart condition. He was alive and talking when the officers turned him over to EMS. There is no evidence that our officers caused his death.
The hysterical overreaction to this case has severely damaged the police department. Inevitably, the public are the ones who’ve paid the price. This fall, the public has the opportunity to restore sanity to this situation in the City Council elections. They should not take a return to normalcy for granted.
Weiser’s office is continuing to investigate whether the Aurora Police Department has a pattern or practice of violating citizens’ civil rights.