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Colorado governor appoints prosecutor to investigate Elijah McClain’s death

“Elijah McClain should be alive today,” Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday (June 24).

Elijah McClain Andy Cross/DP

After 2.6 million people signed a petition demanding justice for Elijah McClain, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday (June 25) that his office has appointed a special prosecutor to reexamine the Black 23-year-old’s death.

“Today I signed an Executive Order designating Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate and, if the facts support prosecution, criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions caused the death of Elijah McClain,” Polis tweeted.

According to a statement, the prosecutor will “determine whether the facts justify criminal charges against members of law enforcement” involved in McClain’s death.

“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 added.

McClain’s death — which occurred last August - has received new attention following the police killing of George Floyd on May 25. The unarmed Colorado resident was walking home from a store when three white Aurora Police Department officers stopped him in response to a 911 call about a “suspicious” looking man. McClain was wearing an open-faced ski mask, which his family said he wore to stay warm due to his anemia.

Officers’ body-cam footage showed that the cops told McClain to stop walking, without providing a reason why, and in an ensuing struggle, wrestled McClain to the ground. CNN reports that McClain could be heard saying “I’m an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” as officers threatened him with their police dog.

As reported by REVOLT, officers then placed McClain in a chokehold, during which he began vomiting and went unconscious. Paramedics were called to the scene and held down McClain and injected him with Ketamine. He later suffered a heart attack in the ambulance, fell into a coma and was pronounced dead three days later.

A following autopsy did not determine McClain’s cause of death, but attributed it to several factors, including intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery. The officers involved — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — were placed on temporary administrative leave following the incident. They were reinstated after the Adams County district attorney’s office declined to file any criminal charges against them and the Aurora Police Department review board cleared them of any wrongdoing.

In a statement, McClain’s family said they were “disappointed, but not surprised, that once again, Aurora has condoned its officers’ killing of an unarmed Black man.”

“I was moved by speaking with Elijah’s mother and her description of her son as a responsible and curious child who became a vegetarian to be healthier, and who could inspire the darkest soul,” Polis said Thursday. “Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever. A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical.”

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