Federal law enforcement agencies revealed Tuesday that, since last year, they’ve been investigating the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police and paramedics.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Denver Division of the FBI said in a news release that the recent attention to the death of McClain caused them to disclose their ongoing investigation.
“The standard practice of the Department of Justice is to not discuss the existence or progress of ongoing investigations,” the news release states. “However, there are specific cases in which doing so is warranted if such information is in the best interest of the public and public safety. Recent attention on the death of Elijah McClain warrants such disclosure.”
The coalition of federal authorities began reviewing the facts of the case in 2019 to see whether there are grounds for a federal civil rights investigation.
“The matter is ongoing, and we are in the process of gathering additional evidence from the Aurora Police Department and other parties,” the authorities said. “To date, the City of Aurora has been cooperating.”
The federal authorities will also gather information about the internal investigation into Aurora police officers who posed for photos at the spot where McClain was arrested to see if a federal civil rights investigation is warranted into that situation.
The revelation Tuesday now means there are three separate investigations at every level of government underway into the death of McClain. Aurora’s city leaders have pledged to hire an outside investigator — after terminating their first contract for their job — and Gov. Jared Polis last week appointed the state’s attorney general to lead a separate investigation.
McClain’s death has garnered international attention over the past two weeks following weeks of protests around the world against police brutality and the killings of Black people by law enforcement. Hundreds gathered Saturday in Aurora to protest McClain’s death and honor his life, though many of the largely peaceful protesters were pushed off of the municipal center lawn by Aurora police.
Aurora police stopped McClain, 23, on Aug. 24 because a 911 caller had reported him as suspicious. The officers attempted to arrest McClain when he did not immediately comply with their orders to stop walking. The officers took him to the ground, where one used a carotid chokehold hold on him, and a paramedic injected him with the heavy sedative ketamine.
McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, where he died Aug. 30 after he was declared brain dead. The three officers who arrested him were cleared of criminal wrongdoing and internal policy violations.
The three officers — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — were taken off street duty this month for their own safety, according to an Aurora spokesperson.
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