Mother Of Chokehold Victim Elijah McClain Says Officers “Murdered” Her Son
“Can you leave me alone. You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen, now let me go.”
Rashiaa Veal holds a sign of her cousin, Elijah McClain at a press conference in front of the Aurora Municipal Center October 1, 2019 [Photo: Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty Images]
Over three million people have signed an online petition demanding officials re-examine the death of a 23-year-old massage therapist who died in Colorado last summer after he was detained by police.
On the evening of Aug. 24, 2019, Elijah McClain was on his way home from buying iced tea at a convenience store in Aurora, a Denver suburb.
According to an investigative report compiled by District Attorney Dave Young, 911 dispatchers received a call at 10:32 p.m. about a “suspicious” Black male in a ski mask who was “acting weird” by “waving his arms around.”
Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz later noted there were no allegations McClain had done anything criminal, the Denver Post reported.
According to family, McClain was just listening to music and was wearing the mask because he had anemia, a chronic condition that caused him to become cold easily.
Nathan Woodyard was the first of three Aurora Police Department officers to arrive on the scene. He allegedly activated his emergency lights, siren and spotlight before he stepped from his patrol car and ordered McClain “to stop at least three times,” Young’s report states.
When Woodyard approached McClain and again demanded he stop, the report claims McClain told the officer: “I have a right to go where I am going.”
The report quotes Woodyard’s alleged response: “I have a right to stop you because you’re being suspicious.”
Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, a second officer now on the scene, each grabbed one of McClain’s arms, and an officer can be heard on bodycam audio telling McClain to “stop tensing up dude,” the report states.
Woodward later claimed he wanted to conduct a “pat down” and check McClain for weapons “given the circumstances.”
During the struggle, the report quotes McClain as pleading: “Let me go, no, let me go. I am an introvert. Please respect my boundaries that I am speaking” and “Can you leave me alone. You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen, now let me go.”
The situation escalated when a third officer, Randy Roedema, alleged McClain tried to grab one of their guns.
According to the report, the three policemen took McClain down to the ground, and Woodyard placed him in a “carotid hold” — a pressure control tactic, or chokehold, the Aurora Police Department has since banned — that caused him to briefly go unconscious.
McClain can be heard in bodycam footage crying, throwing up and saying he “can’t breathe,” Newsweek reported.
A responding medic from the Aurora Fire Rescue Station said McClain “was combative and appeared to be showing signs of excited delirium by his appearance and aggression,” so he sedated him with an injection of ketamine, the D.A.’s report states.
Moments later, McClain no longer had a pulse and paramedics administered pulmonary resuscitation and medication. As an ambulance rushed McClain to the University of Colorado Hospital, he suffered cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma.
McClain was declared brain dead on Aug. 27, 2019, and he passed away after being removed from life support.
“They murdered him. They are bullies with badges," Sheneen McClain told CBS News of the officers involved in the altercation.
District Attorney Young said he decided not to pursue charges against the three policemen since their actions were “legally” justified, CBS News reported.
“Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain's death could have been avoided, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but rather, on the evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law,” Young said in a statement on June 25.
But as a groundswell of support grows for a new probe into McClain’s death 10 months ago, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has instructed his legal counsel “to examine what the state can do” and assess next steps.
“Public confidence in our law enforcement process is incredibly important now more than ever. A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical,” Polis said in a Tweet on June 24.
Samara McClain told the Denver Post last year that her older brother was “a really good person” who had planned to attend college soon.
“He didn’t argue with anybody,” she said. “If you tried to argue with him, he would just say ‘I love you’ and walk away.”
She added: “This was a case of police brutality of someone so sweet. He doesn’t deserve this.”
Read more: The New York Times