Last summer, Elijah McClain was stopped by police in Aurora as he walked home from a convenience store. At some point, he was placed in a chokehold and sedated. He subsequently died.
The three officers involved in the encounter were cleared of wrongdoing following an internal investigation. The District Attorney declined to file criminal charges. However, worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have renewed scrutiny in the McClain incident.
Recently, photos of three Aurora police officers posing in front of a memorial to McClain have surfaced. In one of the photos, a smiling police officer can be seen pantomiming the chokehold that led to McClain’s death.
When questioned about the photos, the officers explained that they were trying to cheer up a fellow officer who was involved in the McClain incident. When he received the photos, the officer under investigation responded with, “haha.”
When evidence of the photos came to light, interim police chief Vanessa Wilson said she, “…immediately ordered Internal Affairs to make this investigation their top priority.” Following the investigation, Wilson fired two of the officers in the photos. The third officer had resigned just prior to Wilson’s decision.
Whether the demands for accountability will have a lasting impact on how the police do their jobs remains to be seen. However, changes are already underway. The Colorado legislature has already passed a bill banning all chokeholds by law enforcement, hopefully putting an end to incidents like those that cost Elijah McClain his life.