AURORA, Colo. (AP) – Several police officers in Denver’s suburbs were placed on paid leave during an investigation into photos that surfaced near where Elijah McClain died last summer after three white officers stopped the black man while walking down the street and one put him in a stranglehold.
Aurora City’s interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, said in a statement Monday evening that the suspended agents “ were depicted in photographs near where Elijah McClain died. ” She did not provide more details about what the images show or how many officers were on leave.
The two photos were taken near where the police arrested the 23-year-old on August 24, 2019, while responding to a report of a suspected person walking down the street wearing a face mask, said police officer Matthew Longshore, a police spokesman for Aurora. . The photos were not taken during the fatal run-up, Longshore said.
McClain’s death brought new attention after George Floyd’s death and sparked worldwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Floyd died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to the black man’s cuffed neck for nearly eight minutes.
In McClain’s case, the police camera video shows an Aurora cop getting out of his car, approaching McClain and saying, “Stop there. Stop. Stop. … I have the right to stop you because you are suspicious. ‘
In the video, Officer McClain turns around and repeats, “Stop quitting.” As McClain tries to escape the officer’s grip, the officer says, “Relax, or I’ll have to change this situation.”
While other agents stop McClain, he begs them to let go and says, “You started arresting me and I stopped listening to my music.”
Aurora police said McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers tried to take him into custody. The officers used a chokehold that cuts off blood to the brain – a tactic recently banned in several places after Floyd’s death.
In the video, McClain tells agents, “Let me go. I am an introvert. Please respect the limits I speak. ‘
Paramedics have administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm him down, police said. He was on the floor for 15 minutes with several officers and paramedics standing by. McClain, a massage therapist and self-taught violinist, suffered cardiac arrest and was later declared brain dead and earning a living.
A forensic pathologist was unable to pinpoint exactly what led to his death, but said physical exertion during the confrontation likely contributed.
An officer reported the photos to the internal affairs department of the department on Thursday. Wilson said she had heard of the investigation that day and ordered the investigators to make it their top priority.
The investigation was completed Monday and the results, including the photos, will be made public after the police provide an assessment and Wilson decides how to respond, Longshore said. The chief’s decision may be appealed by the investigated agents, which would delay publication of the results, he said.
McClain’s family said the photos were a “new low” for the department.
“ This is a department where agents took on an innocent young black man for no reason, committed excessive violence for fifteen minutes – including two carotid arteries – begging for his life, joking when he vomited and threatening to tease a dog at him for not lying still while he was dying, “the family said in a statement.
The three agents who detained McClain were not prosecuted after an investigation by the prosecutor, but Democratic Governor Jared Polis ordered Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser to reopen and possibly prosecute the investigation last week.
Police have been criticized for wearing riot gear and using pepper spray against some people during a protest Saturday against McClain’s death, including a violin vigil, but have denied allegations of tear gas use. Wilson defended her officers’ response to what she described as a group of agitators in an otherwise peaceful protest.
“Those who didn’t do it the right way were those agitators who were arming, putting on helmets and gas masks and throwing rocks at my officers,” Wilson told KUSA-TV.
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