Colorado Grand Jury Charges Officers in Death of Elijah McClain

A grand jury has issued charges in the 2019 death of Mr. McClain, a young Black man who was put in a chokehold while walking home from a convenience store.

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DENVER — A Colorado grand jury issued criminal charges against three police officers and two paramedics in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who had been walking home when he was stopped by the police, put into a chokehold and injected with a powerful anesthetic, the attorney general of Colorado announced on Wednesday.

Attorney General Phil Weiser, who had been named as a special prosecutor in the case, announced the 32-count indictment almost exactly two years to the day after Mr. McClain’s death.

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Elijah McClainCredit…via Reuters

“Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and friends and for our state,” Mr. Weiser said at a news conference announcing the charges, the culmination of months of investigation, protests, and calls for justice by Mr. McClain’s family and friends.

The three police officers and two paramedics involved in Mr. McClain’s death in Aurora, Colo., just east of Denver, will each face one charge of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, Mr. Weiser said. The defendants also face a variety of assault charges.

“We’re here today because Elijah McClain is not here, and he should be,” Mr. Weiser said.

Mari Newman, a lawyer for Mr. McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, hailed the charges, saying that Mr. Mosley had wept when he heard the news.

“This indictment serves as a powerful reminder to all members of law enforcement that no one is above the law,” Ms. Newman said in a statement.

Gov. Jared Polis appointed Mr. Weiser as a special prosecutor in 2020 to investigate Mr. McClain’s death in August 2019.

The death of Mr. McClain, a 23-year-old Black man whom friends and family described as a gentle person who loved animals and taught himself to play the violin, touched off protests across Denver and a flurry of investigations, lawsuits and demands for policing reforms.

Mr. McClain had been walking home from a convenience store when he was stopped by three Aurora police officers responding to a 911 call about a suspicious person. The officers tackled Mr. McClain and put him in a type of chokehold that restricts blood to the brain. Paramedics arriving at the scene then injected Mr. McClain with ketamine, a rapid-acting anesthetic commonly used during surgical procedures in both animals and humans.

Mr. McClain was taken unconscious to the hospital and never recovered. He was taken off life support and died on Aug. 30, 2019.

Mr. McClain was unarmed and had not been suspected of committing any crime. As officers used force to subdue him, Mr. McClain repeatedly apologized to the officers and said he could not breathe: “I can’t breathe, please!” he said at one point.

An independent review of Mr. McClain’s death released this February issued a scathing catalog of errors committed by the officers and paramedics during the encounter and in the investigation that followed. Prosecutors in Adams County, Colo., declined to file criminal charges against the three officers involved in Mr. McClain’s death.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, a lawyer for Mr. McClain’s mother, Sheneen, offered a statement of support on Wednesday.

“Ms. McClain is overwhelmed by the developments into the murder of her son, and she appreciates the hard work of Phil Weiser and his staff,” Mr. Mohamedbhai said.

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