DENVER (CBS4)– Two Aurora police officers, one former Aurora police officer and two Aurora Fire Rescue medics who face criminal charges in connection with the 2019 death of Elijah McClain are scheduled to appear in court later this month. On Wednesday, a statewide grand jury returned 32 charges in all, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, against the five men.
The 23-year-old died Aug. 30, 2019, after a violent encounter with police just days earlier, who were responding to a call of a man who appeared sketchy. McClain was walking home when the officers put him in two chokeholds and tackled him.
Even the Attorney General of Colorado, Phil Weiser, acknowledged it will be a difficult case.
A previous district attorney declined to file charges against the officers or paramedics in McClain’s death, but then with the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, things changed.
Raj Chohan is a former prosecutor and is speaking as a legal analyst, who told CBS4, “I think the atmosphere is right for a jury to come back with a conviction in a case like this.”
He added, “I think it’s going to be difficult for prosecutors though because you are going to have to second guess police officers.”
According to the indictment, the officers placed McClain in a now-banned hold, heard his shoulder pop, and ignored him when he said he couldn’t breathe.
As for the paramedics charged, Chohan said, “They made mistakes; it’s going to be difficult to attach criminal liability to them because they are arriving after some of the activities have occurred.”
The indictment claims the paramedics’ diagnosis of McClain was wrong, his body weight was guessed incorrectly which led to too much of the sedative Ketamine being injected.
In Adams County, the District Attorney Dave Young, who decided not to file charges said, in 2020 said that the actions of the officers were legally justified, “Legally yes.”
But he conceded there were problems, “Absolutely 100% they could have done a million things differently… He didn’t need to die.”
The intent of those involved in the McClain arrest and injection will be factors in at least some of the charges.
Now it’s up to a jury to decide if what those charged amounted to criminal acts.
The AG’s office is conducting a separate investigation to determine if Aurora police and fire have “a pattern and practice” of violating people’s civil rights.