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Officers involved in the death of Elijah McClain reassigned for safety reasons

A recent social media outcry demanding Colorado officials launch an independent investigation into the 2019 death of a 23-year-old Elijah McCain in police custody has prompted Gov. Jared Polis to announce his administration will reexamine the case.

Posted: Jun 25, 2020 12:07 PM
Updated: Jun 27, 2020 12:30 AM


Three Colorado police officers involved in a confrontation that left a Black man dead last year have been reassigned to 'nonenforcement' duties, authorities said.

The death of Elijah McClain is now being investigated following a social media outcry after the fatal August incident while he was in police custody.

Aurora officers Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt were reassigned on June 13, and officer Randy Roedema a week later, a police spokeswoman said. The reassignment means administrative duties such as paperwork, CNN affiliate KDVR reported.

The officers' safety was a primary reason for the move as various police and city employees have received complaints and threats recently, said Faith Goodrich, spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department.

McClain's case received renewed scrutiny following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others that led to massive protests across the country.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced his administration would reexamine the case, answering a call the victim's family has been making for almost a year.

'Last year, we stood on the municipal center steps demanding an investigation and what did we hear then? Crickets,' said Mari Newman, an attorney for the McClain family.

'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?'

At the governor's order, Attorney General Phil Weiser will investigate death. The Denver suburb of Aurora is planning a separate investigation into the actions of first responders in the case.

What happened on August 24

McClain was stopped by three White officers as he walked home from a convenience store on August 24.

A 911 caller had described a 'suspicious person,' according to a police overview of the incident.

During the stop, he resisted officer contact and a struggle ensued, the report says. On one of the officers' body cameras, McClain is heard saying, 'I'm an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.'

Bodycam video shows him telling officers that he was trying to stop his music to listen to them, then they begin to arrest him. One officer is heard telling another, 'He just grabbed your gun, dude.'

The video shows an officer wrestling McClain to the ground.

At one point during the struggle, an officer is heard threatening to bring the dog out 'if you keep messing around.'

An officer placed McClain in a carotid hold, or chokehold, and he briefly lost consciousness, according to an overview of the incident provided by police.

They released the hold, the report says, and he began struggling again. When paramedics arrived at the scene, they administered the drug ketamine to sedate McClain, the report said. According to a letter from the district attorney, McClain suffered a heart attack while in the ambulance and was declared brain dead three days later.

An autopsy did not determine a cause of death but listed intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery as contributing factors, according to the police overview. The coroner found the amount of ketamine in his system to be a therapeutic amount.

In February this year, a police review board declared, '[t]he force applied during the altercation to include the carotid control hold and the force applied during the altercation was within policy and consistent with training.'

The officers in the case were placed on administrative leave following McClain's death, but were later reinstated after prosecutors declined to file charges against them.

CNN has contacted the Fraternal Order of the Police in Aurora for comment.

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