A 157-page independent investigative report on the 2019 cop killing of Elijah McClain commissioned by the Aurora, Colorado, City Council was released to the public Feb. 22. “This report confirms what we have been saying from the start. The Aurora police and medics who murdered my son must be held accountable,” LaWayne Mosley, McClain’s father, said after the report was made public.
“Aurora police were in the wrong from the first moment they contacted 23-year-old Elijah McClain until the man’s limp body was loaded onto a gurney and taken to the hospital where he died days later,” the Denver Post editorialized the day after the report. The independent report sharply criticizes the cover-up engineered by city police and prosecutors and their version of events published in October 2019.
“It was overwhelming knowing my son was innocent the entire time and just waiting on the facts and proof of it,” McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, told CNN. “My son’s name is cleared now. He’s no longer labeled a suspect. He is actually a victim.”
McClain, an African American, was a massage therapist and musician. He often played his violin for the animals at local shelters to help soothe them.
On Aug. 24, 2019, McClain was walking home after buying iced tea. Three cops in the area who received a 911 complaint about a young Black man who “looked sketchy,” stopped him.
The report then graphically describes how the police threw McClain to the ground. Cops Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema pin him down, and Roedema puts a hammerlock to his arm, causing his shoulder to “pop about three times.” Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard both apply carotid control holds, which deprive the brain of oxygen, all the while kneeling or sitting on McClain and handcuffing him.
The report states that the cops’ body camera video shows McClain’s “words were apologetic and confused, not angry or threatening. He became increasingly plaintive and desperate as he struggled to breathe. … He said, ‘It’s just that I can’t breathe correctly because…’ as his voice trailed off.”
Without examining McClain, paramedics from Aurora Fire Rescue gave him a shot of the sedative ketamine, even though McClain hadn’t moved for a minute. And the dose they gave was for a 190-pound person although McClain weighed 140.
Just 18 minutes after being stopped by the cops, McClain had a heart attack. He was brain dead within three days and was taken off life support six days after being brutalized.
In November 2019, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young announced no criminal charges would be filed, claiming prosecutors lacked evidence. Their autopsy concluded McClain died of “undetermined” causes.
McClain’s family has continued to fight for charges to be filed against the cops who killed their son, and they also filed a civil lawsuit. In June 2020, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weisner as a special prosecutor and in January Weisner opened a grand jury investigation.
Thousands joined demonstrations around the country after the killing, demanding the cops who killed Elijah McClain be prosecuted. A number of actions included violinists playing music in tribute to him. “Elijah believed in humanity and that humanity mattered,” his mother said after the report was released.
The report is a damning indictment of both the cops who killed McClain and the Aurora officials who covered it up.