A new petition calls for ‘a more in-depth investigation’ and the removal of the officers involved from duty
Nearly a year after the murder of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died at the hands of Aurora, Colorado police, a new petition calls for a new investigation into his death. More than two million people have signed it, and local law enforcement agencies are receiving tens of thousands of calls demanding justice for Elijah.
On the night of August 24, 2019, Elijah was walking home from a local convenience store, according to the petition. According to the McClain family, Elijah, who was anemic, preferred to wear a ski mask to keep his face warm while he was walking. The Aurora Police Department received a call about a “suspicious man.” This call resulted in his death after officers physically apprehended Elijah, who weighed just 140 pounds, with a carotid hold and threatened to sic their K-9 on him.
“He is laying on the ground vomiting, he is begging, he is saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ One of the officers says, ‘Don’t move again. If you move again, I’m calling in a dog to bite you,'” Mari Newman, the McClain family attorney, says in the petition.
According to the Colorado Sentinel, Elijah did not heed initial police commands to stop walking, and the interaction escalated physically from that point. Two different officers attempted to place McClain in a carotid control hold, cutting off blood flow on the side of his neck until he briefly fainted.
A disturbing and graphic body cam video shows Elijah struggled with officers for nearly 15 minutes — repeatedly sobbing and vomiting — before he was sedated with 500 milligrams of ketamine and loaded into an ambulance. He survived two heart attacks en route to a nearby hospital, but he was pronounced brain dead three days later and died on August 30.
Elijah was never suspected of any specific crime in connection with the incident, and he was unarmed. Two Aurora police officers claim Elijah reached for one officer’s holstered handgun while he was being pinned down with excessive physical force to the point of unconsciousness.
Below is a transcription of Elijah’s last words. They’re absolutely gut-wrenching.
“I can’t breathe.
I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain.
That’s my house. I was just going home.
I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all.
I’m so sorry.
I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat.
All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you.
Try to forgive me.
I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work.
(*crying*) Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that.
I just can’t breathe correctly.”
Authorities were unable to determine whether McClain’s death was an accident, a result of natural causes, or if it’s a homicide directly related to the police department’s use of a carotid hold. The officers on the scene were placed on temporary leave in the aftermath of the incident, but are currently back to work in the field with no charges against them.
The petition specifically calls on Adams County District Attorney Dave Young, Mayor Mike Coffman and the Aurora Police Department, to conduct “a more in-depth investigation” and remove the officers involved from duty.
In the wake of national protests for George Floyd and every Black person murdered by police, Elijah’s story is finally gaining the national attention it deserved last summer. People all over social media are sharing his story in hopes the DA will reopen the case and provide the grieving McClain family with the justice they were initially denied.
The district attorney’s office has been slammed with thousands of emails and calls and the local police department has received hundreds of complaints. “I don’t open up investigations based on petitions,” district attorney Young told Colorado Politics. “Obviously, if there is new evidence to look at, I will look at the evidence in any case.”
In regard to the massive national outrage over George Floyd’s death, Elijah’s mother said Coloradans didn’t seem to feel the same way about the murder of her son.
“I cannot speak on George’s death because Colorado didn’t care about Elijah’s death,” she told The Sentinel. “Colorado fails in accountability for their own residents but urges justice for someone in a different ZIP Code.”
You can donate to a GoFundMe set up for the McClain family in honor of Elijah here.