This summer, the case of Elijah McClain, a 23 year old black man that died after being stopped walking down the street in a Denver suburb was re-opened. What has been revealed is that an officer involved in the case was caught sending texts of him and his colleagues re-enacting the chokehold Mcclain was placed in, with one replying “haha.” The officer that put him in the chokehold, Nathan Woodyard wasn’t disciplined because he didn’t respond when he received the message.
McClain was reported for walking down the street with a ski mask on and “being suspicious.” His family said he had a blood condition that made him feel cold so he wore a ski mask. “The fact that three on-duty, in-uniform police officers thought that it was appropriate to reenact the murder, jokingly, shows that the department is rotten to the core,” the McClain family’s lawyer Mari Newman stated. His mother Sheneen McClain, added “it was just devastating to see that people were mocking the murder of her son.”
Terrence Roberts, a community organizer and family friend said “[Jason] Rosenblatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for murdering Elijah, but for making fun of Elijah. That is the culture that we’re fighting, where a police officer can murder a black man, a black child, and keep his job and stay on the force so he can go make fun of this child.”
In the bodycam footage, McClain can be heard saying, “You guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen.” He went on to say, “Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.” He even went as far as to say he doesn’t kill flies.
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson stated that the officers gave the explanation of the photo saying they were “trying to cheer up a friend by sending that photo.”
“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said. The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs are “a crime against humanity and decency,” she added. After firing 3 of the officers, the Aurora Police Association called it “a rush to judgment” saying the investigation took 9 days when the normal time is to take months.
The possibility of a civil rights investigation is being considered according to the U.S. attorney’s office, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI. Federal authorities have also said they’re considering investigating the photos.