The investigation into the death of a Black man who was killed by suburban Denver police officers has revealed a police department’s ugly, racist history.
On Wednesday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said that the Aurora Police Department has a long culture in which police officers treat people of color, specifically Black people, differently than white people. He found that the agency also has a pattern of using unlawful excessive force; frequently escalates encounters with civilians, and fails to properly document police interactions with residents.
After the police killing of Elijah McClain, 23, who was placed in a chokehold two years ago in Denver, the attorney general launched an investigation into the Aurora Police Department.
Aurora police Chief Vanessa Wilson released a written statement:
“Today is incredibly difficult for not only the Aurora community but this agency. We acknowledge there are changes to be made. We will not broad brush this agency or discount the professionalism and integrity that individual officers bring to our community every day. I am proud to say the Aurora Police Department began the implementation of many changes over the last 21 months, while this and other investigations were ongoing. Those changes have improved overall policing, de-escalation training, community outreach, and engagement. I have and continue to hold officers accountable as evidenced by my recent disciplinary actions, which are supported by many officers in the department who are proud to wear our badge.”
Earlier this year, an independent investigation in Colorado pertaining to McClain’s death determined that the Aurora police officers involved had no justification to stop McClain or to use force against him.
McClain left a corner store after buying iced tea in Aurora the night of Aug. 24, 2019. McClain was wearing a ski mask due to a blood disorder that made him cold. The three officers were responding to a report of someone wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.
Bodycam footage showed the cops ordering McClain to stop. McClain responded by telling the officer he was an introvert and asked the officers to respect his boundaries. Police eventually grabbed and threw McClain to the ground as one cop believed McClain was carrying a holstered weapon.
A struggle ensued, and officers rendered a chokehold on McClain, which, according to NBC News, restricts blood to the brain to make a person lose consciousness. The paramedics were called to the scene and injected McClain with ketamine to sedate him.
Less than 10 minutes later, McClain was found to have no pulse and went into cardiac arrest, according to a report released in 2019 from local prosecutor Dave Young. Medics revived McClain, but he was declared brain dead and taken off life support a week later.
Two weeks ago, BLACK ENTERPRISE reported that two police officers, a former officer, and two paramedics will face charges in the death of McClain.