Colorado Governor Orders New Investigation Into Death Of Elijah McClain

by Julie Scagell
Colorado's Governor Ordered A New Investigation Into The Death Of Elijah McClain
CBS This Morning/Youtube

A state attorney general has been appointed to the case

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday appointed a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the circumstances that led to the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man killed during an arrest by Aurora police last August. He also put into legislation the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act mandating body cameras, public reporting on policing, preventing rehiring what he calls “bad actors,” and requiring that officers only use deadly force when an “imminent risk of danger to human life” is present.

“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said in a statement announcing the new investigation.

Polis also said that, although the state government “rarely steps in to investigate, and potentially prosecute, an incident over the individual decisions of district attorneys,” McClain’s case is “truly exceptional.”

After millions demanded justice in the death of McClain, Gov. Jared Polis announced he was appointing a state attorney general to reexamine the case. McClain, 23, died in 2019 after being stopped by three Aurora police officers while walking home from a grocery store for “acting suspicious.” Officers said they believed McClain was reaching for an officer’s gun, so they placed him in a chokehold. McClain began vomiting and begging for his life. Officers called paramedics after he passed out, administered a dose of ketamine to sedate McClain, and he stopped breathing. McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and he was declared brain-dead three days later.

Friends and family described McClain as “a spiritual seeker, pacifist, oddball, vegetarian, athlete, and peacemaker who was exceedingly gentle.”

Mari Newman, the McClain family attorney, said in the petition that McClain “is laying on the ground vomiting, he is begging, he is saying, ‘I can’t breathe.'”

Newman also questioned why this is finally being looked at now. “Why did it take almost a year, international media attention, millions of people signing a petition for a responsible adult to finally step up and do what should have happened right from the outset?” she said.

Initially after the mass public scrutiny, district attorney Dave Young said, per Colorado Politics,”I don’t open up investigations based on petitions.” In response to McClain’s death and not prosecuting the officers involved, he said, “I’m not here to condone their actions — in fact, I disagree with what they did on the night of August 24, 2019. But the forensic autopsy report could not determine McClain’s cause of death.”

It seems that mindset has changed.

“Widely reported facts are not addressed in any current investigation,” Polis said. “These omissions merit a supplemental evaluation of the case by an independent prosecutor and thus warrant this executive order.”

The Aurora district attorney declined to file charges against officers who stopped McClain — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema — and they were reinstated to the force just three months after his death.

“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain,” McClain can be heard saying in the officer’s video. “That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry.”