Elijah McClain: Three Denver cops fired after posing for photos mocking chokehold death of 23-year-old Black man

A local police chief called the images the officers shared "beyond comprehension" as another officer resigned over the matter


                            Elijah McClain: Three Denver cops fired after posing for photos mocking chokehold death of 23-year-old Black man
(Aurora Police Department)

Three Colorado police officers, who shared photos re-enacting a chokehold used on a black man who later died, have been relieved from their duties. 23-year-old Elijah McClain died after being stopped by police in August last year. A local police chief called the images the officers shared "beyond comprehension" as another officer resigned over the matter. McClain's case fueled the outrage over police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, another unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. As reported by the BBC, the officers who got the ax were named as Kyle Dittrich, Erica Marrero, and Jason Rosenblatt. Jaron Jones, another officer, resigned on Tuesday.

People shut down I-225 in both directions as they demand justice for Elijah McClain on June 27, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado. (Getty Images)

Vanessa Wilson, the acting police chief in the Denver suburb of Aurora, where the incident occurred, described the insensitive images as a crime against humanity and decency. "We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry about what I have to share," Wilson told a news conference. "While the allegations of this internal affairs case are not criminal, they are a crime against humanity and decency. To even think about doing such a thing is beyond comprehension and it is reprehensible."

Former officers Dittrich and Jones are seen in one of the pictures imitating a neck hold, while Marrero smiles at the side. The photos were sent to Jason Rosenblatt by text, who responded saying "haha". Chief Wilson said she released the photos only after she could share them with McClain's family, whose lawyers called them "appalling."

Three police officers stopped McClain when he was walking in Aurora on 24 August 2019. There had been an emergency call about a "suspicious person" matching his description, a district attorney report later revealed. McClain resisted contact with the officers who wanted to frisk him to see if he was armed, resulting in a struggle, per the report. "I'm an introvert, please respect my boundaries that I am speaking," McClain is heard saying in the bodycam footage.

At some point, one of the officers alerts another saying "he is going for your gun" before the trio wrestles him to the ground and one of them puts him in a chokehold. McClain lost consciousness and was released from the chokehold, the report says, before he regained his senses and began to struggle again. The officers subsequently called for firefighters and ambulance assistance. A responding paramedic sedated McClain by injecting ketamine.

String players perform during a violin vigil for Elijah McClain in Washington Square Park on June 29, 2020, in New York City. (Getty Images)

McClain was then put on a stretcher and inside the ambulance, before the medic who administered the sedative realized McClain's chest "was not rising on its own, and he did not have a pulse." On 27 August, he was declared brain dead.

McClain's family has alleged that the officers used excessive force on McClain for over 15 minutes despite him vomitting, begging them to stop, and repeatedly telling them he couldn't breathe. They added that the officers also threatened to set a police dog on McClain.

The cause of death is still undetermined, according to a coroner's autopsy. A special prosecutor has been appointed to review the case. Aurora police responded to calls for reform by banning the chokehold used on McClain earlier this month. According to new rules, fellow officers are required to intervene if they notice a colleague using excessive force.

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