The public is now demanding Colorado officials to launch an independent investigation into the death of a 23-year-old Black man in police custody in 2019. The outcry from the public has prompted Gov. Jared Polis to announce that his administration will open the case and reexamine it.
More than 2 million people signed a petition urging the public officials to conduct a new investigation into the death of Elijah McClain. McClain died after police officers in Denver put him in a chokehold. The death of McClain is one of the numerous cases to get attention following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black men and women under police custody.
On August 24, 2019, McClain was stopped by three white officers while he was on his way home after buying something from a convenience store. A 911 caller reported that there was a "suspicious person" walking in the area. The report says that McClain resisted officer contact, and that was when the struggle ensued, according to BBC News.
On one of the officer's body cameras, McClain was heard saying that he is an introvert and wants space. He was also heard saying that he was trying to stop his music so he can listen to the officers better, but they began to arrest him. One officer said that McClain grabbed another officer's gun, which was not true.
The incident leading to McClain's death
According to an overview of the incident given by the police, an officer wrestles McClain to the ground and put him on a chokehold. He briefly lost consciousness. They released the hold but McClain began struggling again. Paramedics arrived at the scene and administered ketamine to sedate McClain.
According to a letter from the district attorney, McClain suffered a heart attack while he was in the ambulance, and he was declared brain dead after three days.
The autopsy showed that a narrow left coronary artery and intense physical exertion contributed to the death of McClain. The coroner also found the amount of ketamine in McClain's system to be a therapeutic amount.
Dave Young, the Adams County district attorney, declined to file criminal charges in the case at the time. In February 2020, a police review board declared that the force that was applied during the altercation with McClain was within policy. The officers that were in the case were all placed on administrative leave following the death of McClain, but they were later reinstated after the prosecutors declined to file charges against them, according to Denver Post.
On June 19, Gov. Polis signed a new police accountability legislation into law. The Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act requires police officers to have their body cameras on at all times. It also requires the public to report on policing, it prevents rehiring of "bad actors" and it holds individual officers liable for their actions.
The law also restricts the use of chemical agents and projectiles. It also establishes that officers can only use deadly force when there is an imminent risk of danger to human life if apprehension is delayed. The use of chokeholds and other dangerous tactics are repealed.
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