Violinist Elijah McClain (photo provided by his family)

By Ana Campbell, Denverite | On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced he was instructing his legal team to determine “what the state can do” in the case of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after an encounter with Aurora police last year.

It’s within the governor’s purview to ask the state attorney general to investigate the case.

Recent protests in Denver and Aurora have called attention to McClain’s death, and a petition on Change.org calling for the officers involved to be taken off duty and an investigation into his case has received more than 2 million signatures.

On August 24, 2019, McClain was walking near Colfax Avenue in Aurora when someone called police to report a “sketchy” man flailing his arms and wearing a ski mask, which he often donned because he had anemia. After a brief exchange and despite no evidence that he had committed a crime, three officers wrangled 140-pound McClain to the ground. An officer claimed he tried to take his gun from its holster. The body-cam footage is limited to audio, and McClain can be heard saying he was in pain and didn’t have a gun. “I don’t do that kind of stuff,” he told them.

An officer put McClain in a carotid [cah-rah-tid] control hold, a kind of stranglehold. He was handcuffed and vomited multiple times. Responding EMTs then injected him with ketamine on the ride to the hospital to sedate him, they said. He suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance, and was declared brain dead three days later in the hospital.

In early February, a review board cleared the three officers who had apprehended McClain.

The community’s response was loud enough that newly sworn-in Mike Coffman said he would make handling the case among his first priorities as Aurora’s mayor.

McClain’s death has since made national headlines.

On Saturday, the Party for Socialism and Liberation will host a protest outside Aurora police headquarters, calling on the officers involved to be fired, the case to be reopened, and McClain’s family to receive “immediate restitution.”

Gov. Polis appoints state attorney general to investigate Elijah McClain case

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Original Story:
Elijah McClain was a kind and gentle 23 year old who worked as a massage therapist in Aurora, CO. On his lunch breaks from work, Elijah would go to the animal shelters and play violin for the animals because he thought that they were lonely in their cages and thought that the music would calm them. He was quirky, a pacifist, a vegetarian, enjoyed running, and known to put a smile on everyone’s face.

In August 2019, Elijah went to the gas station to buy some iced tea for himself and his cousins. Because he suffered from anemia, a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your body’s tissues, he would often wear a ski/ runner mask over his face to stay warm. On his way home, the Aurora Police department were called to reports of a “suspicious man”, likely due to Elijah wearing his mask for warmth and dancing to the music in his headphones. All Elijah was doing was WALKING HOME.

Warning for violent description:
Elijah was apprehended by a group of three cops, despite committing NO crime and being unarmed. A struggle occurred, and he was held in a very dangerous carotid hold around his neck while he cried for help, cried out that he couldn’t breathe, cried out that he was nonviolent and couldn’t even kill a fly, and was repeatedly throwing up. Elijah weighed a mere 140 pounds. You can hear on the audio footage, an officer instructing another the move their body camera out of view. Another threatened to “call in a dog to bite him, if he (Elijah) moved again”. While 3 Aurora Police Dept officers violently restrained him they called Aurora Fire Dept, who injected him with ketamine even tho he was already cuffed, a drug used to tranquilize horses or in surgeries while properly supervised by anesthesiologist. He went into cardiac arrest , slipped into a coma, and his family was advised to take him off life support 6 days later. As a result of this encounter, Elijah passed away at the age of 23.

The officers have STILL NOT been charged in taking Elijah’s life. Elijah’s voice has been taken from him, so it is up to US to be his voice. We must DEMAND JUSTICE for Elijah.

Please share his story.

Sign the petition:

[Editor’s note: We’ve placed this story in our newsletter because Elijah was a member of the Colorado music community and we all need to be concerned about the unnecessary loss of his life.]

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