By Michael Abeyta

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen, says two years ago her son was an American success story. She raised him alone and encouraged him to learn. He became a massage therapist and was working two jobs when his life was taken.

“When he says that he was different, he means that he really wanted to be a successful individual,” she said.

Sheneen McClain (credit: CBS)

He was walking home in August of 2019 when Aurora Police officers stopped him because someone called 911 saying he looked suspicious. He was taken to the ground, injected with ketamine to sedate him, and days later, he died.

On Wednesday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced an investigation into Aurora Police was complete. It found the department has a history of racially biased policing, particularly against Black people and a pattern of violating federal and state law.

Sheneen says it doesn’t help heal the hole left in her heart by Elijah’s death.

“It’s bittersweet,” she says, “because it took my son’s murder to highlight everything that is wrong.”

Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain (credit: CBS)

Her lawyer, Qusair Mohamedbhai, says while this is a huge step toward justice, it’s something he and people of color in Aurora have known for a long time.

“Aurora has had a long-standing practice of police violence and violent policing,” he said.

Sheneen is not hopeful this will prevent future police killings.

“Because with everyone who has been highlighted in the news that has been murdered by police officers, people are still getting killed. People are still getting brutalized,” she said.

She is glad, however, Aurora Police is being held accountable.

“The whole wide world is watching them if they mess up again,” she said.

Colorado lawmakers say Sheneen was instrumental in the passage of a new sweeping police accountability law.

“It wasn’t until Sheneen McClain took the steps, took the Capitol in 2020 and literally took the megaphone from me and said ‘why weren’t you here for my son? We need to do more to fight for justice for Elijah.’ That really was a tipping point in our movement here in Colorado,” said Rep. Leslie Herod.

Michael Abeyta