Last year, officers in Colorado were cleared in the death of a suspect. Now the governor wants it investigated…again.

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AURORA, CO – Last year, officers were cleared in the death of a suspect.  Everything was done legally.

But now all of a sudden those same officers are apparently back under investigation for the incident they were cleared in.

On August 24, 2019, Aurora Police Officers were dispatched regarding a male wearing a mask and waving his arms.  As officers arrived, they attempted to make contact with the male, later identified as Elijah McClain, who refused to stop and talk to officers. 

Under these circumstances, officers are required to make contact with the person to determine if there is, was, or was about to be a crime committed.  In addition, to ascertain the mental wellbeing of the person to ensure that they were not suffering from a mental or intoxication issue in which they required immediate help.

Since, that is what police are required to do, a person simply cannot keep walking away and the officer cannot allow them to do so.  If the officer, in circumstances such as this, allow the person to walk away and they walk into traffic, suffer a medical issue and die, the officers can be held liable. 

Since that appears to be the situation here, officers attempted to physically detain McClain to determine what was occurring. 

McClain immediately resisted the officers efforts, which forced them to take him down to the ground in order to achieve physical control of him.

Once on the ground, McClain continued to physically resist officers and used a trained maneuver in order get him under control.  The move used, according to the Denver Post, was a “carotid control hold,” a move trained in police academies throughout the United States at the time. 

The hold, which has been referred to as a “sleeper hold,” is where the officer utilizes the crease in his/her elbow and places that around the Adams apple while the forearm produces pressure on the veins in the neck, causing the subject to lose energy while fighting, if used properly. 

Despite the hold, McClain was still physically fighting with officers, which is clearly visible on the body cameras of the officers, at the time paramedics arrived on scene.  Paramedics provided a sedative to McClain which calmed him enough to transport him to the hospital from the scene.

Once in the ambulance, McClain experienced cardiac arrest and was rushed to the emergency room.  Unfortunately, McClain never recovered, and he died three days later.

An autopsy was conducted on McClain which was not able to determine a cause of death.  Since there was no finding on the cause of death, no charges were sought against anyone in this case. 

In addition, a thorough review was done of all persons at the seen and body camera footage from the officers by Dave Young, the District Attorney for the 17th district who was in charge of the investigation. 

Young wrote in a statement:

“Specifically, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy stated that he was unable to conclude that the actions of any law enforcement officer caused Mr. McClain’s death.  In order to prove any form of homicide in the state of Colorado it is mandatory that the prosecution prove that the accused caused the death of the victim.

“For those reasons, it is my opinion that the evidence does not support the filing of homicide.” 

Young also determined that there did not appear to be any evidence to support the belief that the officer’s actions in this incident were unlawful.  As such, the officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the tragic death. 

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However, after the murder of George Floyd, Colorado Governor Polis said that he believes this case needs to be examined, again, by the state legal team. 

Some suggested that this cannot be done because of double jeopardy. However, officers were never tried and acquitted on this case, so, double jeopardy does not apply. A review, although suspicious in nature, is actually legal.

Governor Polis stated:

“As a father, my heart breaks for the McClain family.  All Coloradans should be safe walking home from the convenience store, or just being in their own neighborhoods listening to headphones. Unfortunately, I know that is not how many people – especially young people of color – feel in our state today, because I’ve heard it from them directly.” 

Governor Polis seems to believe that a review by both the district attorney and the medical examiner were insufficient. Clearly, the police and the medical crew are both untrustworthy to Polis as well.

It’s obvious- to most, anyway- that some other medical condition caused the death of McClain. It doesn’t matter though. Polis believes that a better, “thorough review of the case” needs to be done.

As such, State Attorney General Phil Weiser has been tasked with conducting another investigation into this death.

It is yet to be determined what Weiser’s investigation will show once it is completed.  However, what is for sure is those officers’ lives were changed forever on that night in 2019 when they met McClain.

It was McClain’s actions that forced the officers to physically detain him. It was McClain’s decisions to continue fighting officers to the point of having to be medically sedated by emergency medical personnel. 

While I am certain that they were relieved when the state cleared them in this death, I also wholeheartedly believe that those officers will they ever, completely be the same after it. 

And now, they face being criminally charged in a case in which they were already cleared. 

That sure sends a strong message to the officers and the community.

 

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