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- Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died in hospital in August 2019 after Aurora, Colorado police officers placed him in a carotid hold, restricting blood to his brain, and medics subsequently injected him with ketamine to "sedate" him.
- McClain was walking home from the store, listening to music when officers Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and Jason Rosenblatt arrested him and pinned him to the ground.
- The officers were briefly placed on administrative leave but have since returned to their roles, while District Attorney Dave Young declined to bring charges against any of them.
- Donate to McClain's family, call and email Aurora officials, sign petitions demanding justice for McClain, and donate to bail funds for protestors below.
On August 24, 2019, 23-year-old massage therapist Elijah McClain walked to the store in Aurora, Colorado, to buy an iced tea for his brother. As he walked home, listening to music, a bystander reported him to police, calling his behavior and his open-face ski mask, which he wore because his anemia frequently left him feeling cold, "suspicious." The caller said McClain was "flailing his arms"; McClain's friends, speaking (opens in new tab) to the Sentinel Colorado, said he was probably dancing.
When police officers Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and Jason Rosenblatt arrived on the scene, as the Sentinel reports (opens in new tab), they wrestled McClain, who was unarmed, to the ground, placing him in a carotid hold to restrict blood flow to his brain. First responders were called, who injected him with ketamine to "sedate" him. McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and died on August 30.
"I don't think the amount of force used on my son was justified," McClain's father, Lawayne Mosley, told (opens in new tab) Denver7. "It should not have escalated from a suspicious call to my son dying."
Body-cam footage was not released by Aurora Police until November—and only audio recording of McClain's arrest was captured, as Denver7 reports (opens in new tab), as Woodyard, Roedema, and Rosenblatt all said their cameras had been "dislodged." Mari Newman, attorney for the McClain family, suggested the officers deliberately removed their cameras, noting that in the recording, one officer says, "Move your camera, dude."
In the footage, McClain can be heard sobbing and begging for the officers to stop. "I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here... My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home," he says, as Elle reports (opens in new tab). "I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?"After vomiting, McClain apologizes to the officers. "Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that," he tells them. "I just can’t breathe correctly."
The recording also captures one officer acknowledging that McClain had not done anything illegal before being arrested. As the Sentinel reports (opens in new tab), another officer threatens him, saying, "If you keep messing around, I’m going to bring my dog out and he’s going to dog bite you, you understand me?" The officers say McClain is displaying extreme strength as they attempt to arrest him, while one accuses McClain of reaching for his gun in the captured footage.
Woodyard, Roedema, and Rosenblatt were placed on administrative leave after arresting McClain, but have since been reinstated, the Sentinel reports (opens in new tab). District Attorney Dave Young announced in November that no criminal charges would be brought against any of the officers, or the medics who injected McClain with ketamine. Newman, the McClain family attorney, said (opens in new tab) in response, "If Aurora thinks this is appropriate policing, the community should be petrified."
In February, the City of Aurora hired former Connecticut state trooper Eric Daigle to conduct a review into McClain's death, sparking public outcry over the investigator's law enforcement connections, as the Sentinel reports (opens in new tab). Earlier this month, City Manager Jim Twombly said Daigle's contract had subsequently been terminated. Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson recently announced (opens in new tab) a ban on carotid holds by police.
McClain's death at the hands of police has attracted international attention in recent weeks. A Change.org petition (opens in new tab), which calls for officers Woodyard, Roedema, and Rosenblatt to be removed from duty and a proper investigation to be conducted, has reached almost 2,700,000 signatures. A new wave of emails and calls to Aurora officials, including DA Dave Young, prompted Governor Jared Polis to make a public statement about a renewed investigation, announcing (opens in new tab), "I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps." Scroll down to see how you can help call for justice for McClain.
Speaking to Denver7, McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, said she's struggling in the wake of his death. "It’s really hard for me to get out because I just break out and cry a lot," she said, calling for laws to be passed to protect Black people against police brutality. "We need to flood the Senate or whoever we need to in order to get these bills passed so that equality is real and it’s not just a delusion."
"I thank God that he was my son because just him being born brought life into my world, you know what I mean?" she said of Elijah. "I know he was giving life to other people too."
How can I help demand justice for Elijah McClain?
Sign the petition calling for justice for Elijah McClain here (opens in new tab).
Donate to a fundraiser organized by McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, in order to demand justice and start a foundation in his name here (opens in new tab).
Email Aurora officials, using a template created by @justiceforelijahmcclain, here (opens in new tab).
Call Aurora officials, using a script created by @justiceforelijahmcclain, here (opens in new tab).
Donate to the Colorado Freedom Fund here (opens in new tab).
Split a donation between bail funds across the country here (opens in new tab).
Donate to Black Lives Matter here (opens in new tab).
Sign the Black Lives Matter petition to #DefundThePolice here (opens in new tab).
Donate to the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of Black organizations across the U.S., here (opens in new tab).
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Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.
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