Special prosecutor appointed by Colorado's governor to investigate Elijah McClain death

A still frame from body-worn camera footage tied to the death of Elijah McClain.  Photo...
A still frame from body-worn camera footage tied to the death of Elijah McClain. Photo courtesy Aurora PD. (KKTV)
Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 6:10 PM MDT
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Colorado's governor announced Wednesday afternoon that the state would be looking into a case centered around the death of a man in Aurora following an incident involving police and paramedics.

On Thursday, the governor appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the death.

Elijah McClain, 23, was walking home at night in August of 2019. The Aurora Police Department received a 911 call where the caller described a “suspicious person.” The caller reported an adult male was walking on Billings Street near East Colfax Avenue, wearing a ski mask and flailing his arms at the caller. Police reported in an online blog that officers tried to make contact with McClain.

"The male began to resist the officer contact, a struggle then ensued, and he was taken into custody," police wrote in the blog. "Aurora Fire Rescue administered a standard medication to reduce Mr. McClain’s agitation. He was then transported to a local hospital where tragically he died days later."

You can watch body camera footage released by Aurora Police in November of 2019 at the bottom of this article of the incident. McClain was unarmed and police used force after making contact with him.

"I am hearing from many Coloradans who have expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain’s death," Gov. Jared Polis wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. "As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps. Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever. A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical."

McClain's name is among those being shouted during protests in Colorado that started with the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer was recorded putting a knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. The officer has since been fired and charged with murder.

No charges have been filed in McClain's case.

to view documents shared by the Aurora Police Department, including the autopsy report. The opinion in the autopsy report is McClain died of "undetermined causes."

Governor Jared Polis signed an Executive Order designating Phil Weiser, Attorney General of Colorado, as the State’s prosecutor, to investigate and, if the facts support prosecution, criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions caused the death of Elijah McClain.

The governor included the following statement on Thrusday:

“I was moved by speaking with Elijah’s mother and her description of her son as a responsible and curious child who became a vegetarian to be healthier, and who could inspire the darkest soul. His friends describe him as a gentle peacemaker who worked as a massage therapist and enjoyed playing the violin. Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern. Now more than ever, we must do everything within our power to foster public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. That’s why I have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this case, and it’s why earlier this month we took a step in the right direction by signing sweeping bipartisan police reform legislation into law that has now established significant new accountability for officer-involved killings. 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. We need to do a better job, and at a bare minimum they deserve a thorough review of the case,”

said Governor Polis.