Several officers are being investigated after they allegedly took photos at the Colorado location where 23-year-old Black massage therapist Elijah McClain got into a fatal altercation with cops.
“Thursday afternoon, I was apprised of allegations reported to Internal Affairs by an Aurora Police Officer alleging multiple Aurora Police officers were depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died,” the Aurora Police Department’s interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said in a statement on Monday.
Wilson continued, “All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities. I immediately ordered Internal Affairs to make this investigation their top priority. This accelerated investigation was completed this evening.
“This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion,” Wilson added. “This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officers’ names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”
On Thursday, sources told CBS4 investigator Brian Maass that a total of three cops allegedly took part in the photos.
Maass also reports that the cops allegedly reenacted the chokehold used on Elijah, and that the photos were disseminated to other cops in the department.
My sources say the photos were disseminated within @AuroraPD to other officers and showed the officers reenacting the hold that preceeded McClains death. Question :were the officers on duty and in uniform? Its hard to believe this story could get worse. It just did. @CBSDenver— Brian Maass (@Briancbs4) June 30, 2020
CBS4 also obtained a statement from the McClain family through their attorney in which they condemned Aurora Police for their alleged actions.
“Just when we thought the Aurora Police could not be any worse, they somehow find a new low,” it stated. “This is a department where officers tackled an innocent young black man for no reason, inflicted outrageous force — including two carotid chokeholds — for fifteen minutes as he pled for his life, joked when he vomited, and threatened to sic a dog on him for not lying still enough as he was dying.”
It continued, “They tampered with their body cameras to hide the evidence. They exonerated the killers. They deployed riot police and spewed pepper gas on peaceful protestors [sic] at a vigil of mourners playing the violin. And now this.”
On the night of August 24, 2019, a 911 caller reported Elijah to authorities because the young man was “flailing his arms” and was wearing a ski mask — which Elijah’s sister, Naomi McClain, later explained was to keep him warm, as he had anemia.
According to an overview of the incident released in November 2019, Officer Nathan Woodyard allegedly applied a “carotid control hold” around Elijah’s neck during the confrontation.
Per an August 26, 2019, press release, while cops held Elijah down, paramedics gave him a “standard medication” — reportedly 500 mg of ketamine — to reduce his agitation.
Elijah went into cardiac arrest as he was being transported to the hospital. He was pronounced dead less than a week later on August 30, 2019.