DENVER (AP) – The lawyer for the black man’s family who died after being detained last year by police in the Denver suburbs for being “suspicious” said Friday that she and Elijah McClain’s relatives were investigating their own have conducted three white police officers after an official investigation was approved
Mari Newman told The Associated Press that she is suspicious of government investigations into alleged police misconduct. It comes a day after Democratic Governor Jared Polis has appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser to re-examine and possibly prosecute the officers.
“After doing more than two decades of this work, I have found that families cannot rely on the government to control themselves,” Newman said. “And so it’s my job to keep looking for justice through the civil justice system, so we’re doing our own research and preparing a civil rights lawsuit.”
Newman declined to elaborate or give details of the independent investigation.
“We know that the police cannot control themselves and we know that prosecutors do not sue police officers for trusting the police in their other prosecutions,” she said.
Aurora police responded to a call from a suspected person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms as he walked down a street on August 24. They say 23-year-old McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers confronted him and tried to detain him.
“I have the right to stop you because you are suspicious,” a police officer told McClain. The meeting happened when McClain, a certified massage therapist and a self-taught violin player, delivered a message.
To subdue McClain, agents used a chokehold that cuts off blood to the brain – a tactic recently banned in several places after George Floyd’s death last month in Minneapolis. Paramedics arrived shortly after and administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm McClain. In less than a week, McClain suffered cardiac arrest, was declared brain dead, and was deprived of living.
Weiser promised a thorough investigation in a statement on Thursday. He said it will be “guided by the facts and worthy of the public’s trust in the criminal justice system”.
The Attorney General’s office declined to comment on Newman’s decision to open an independent investigation.
While the Attorney General’s appointment is not “business as usual,” Newman said, it recognizes the special circumstances surrounding McClain’s death.
“A genuine, thorough, independent investigation should not depend on a case that sparks the public outrage of three million petition signatures and international media coverage,” said Newman, referring to an online change.org petition claiming justice for McClain.
“So while I appreciate the governor getting on and coming in, it’s a pity that it doesn’t happen in all cases,” she added.
Aurora City Council will debate on July 6 whether or not to hire a third inspector after a previous one was fired for being a former police officer. Newman said she is suspicious of that process.
Three officers were placed on leave, but returned to the corps after prosecutor Dave Young said there was insufficient evidence to impeach them.
“Ultimately, although I may share the general public opinion that the death of Elijah McClain could have been avoided, it is not my job to bring criminal charges on the basis of opinion, but rather on the basis of the evidence that has emerged from the investigation and applicable Colorado law, “Young said Thursday.
Newman said “without a doubt” that everyone involved should be fired: “Their behavior shows they are not fit to wear that badge.”
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