State Watch

Colorado city council approves independent investigation into Elijah McClain death

The city council of Aurora, Colo., unanimously passed a resolution Monday that approved an “independent, unbiased” investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died while in police custody in August 2019.

The resolution stated that an independent investigation is needed “to discern the facts about what transpired that night of August 24, 2019” because a previous outside investigator “did not meet the standard of neutrality that the City and community seeks,” according to The Denver Post.

The three-person team will be led by Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Smith has previously  helped investigate civil rights violations by law enforcement for the U.S. Department of Justice. He also helped lead the civil investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police department following the death of Michael Brown.

The city has not yet appointed the other two members of the investigatory panel.

McClain was stopped by authorities in August while walking on his way home from a convenience store. He was wearing a ski mask to help him stay warm due to anemia and aid his social anxieties, his family says. 

Police responded to calls of somebody who appeared “sketchy” in the area. McClain was restrained by police before paramedics administered a dose of 500 mg of ketamine. McClain went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance and later died at the hospital.

The three responding officers — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — were reportedly placed on administrative leave following the incident, but in February an internal review board from the police department cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, the police department fired three officers and a fourth resigned after an internal investigation found they had taken and shared photos mocking the choke hold used on McClain at the site of his memorial, the Post reported.

–Updated 9:48 a.m.

Tags Aurora Black Lives Matter Colorado Elijah McClain Elijah McClain death Investigation Police racial justice

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