“He not only cured others, but he cured himself,” said Sheneen McClain. “He was able to accept love and give love in different ways.”
Elijah McClain also played the violin and guitar and was an animal lover. He loved animals so much, he spent lunch playing the animal violin at a local shelter, according to McClain family attorney Mari Newman.
“He was part of a close-knit family. His family misses him unbearably,” Newman said.
Now his face appears in murals around Aurora, a Denver suburb. It was there that Elijah McClain died last August after a confrontation with Aurora police officers.
A person who called 911 had described a “suspicious person,” according to a police description of the incident. The confrontation led an officer to place McClain in a carotid cellar, or suffocation. McClain suffered a heart attack while in the ambulance and was declared brain dead three days later.
Mother says she doesn’t know who to trust anymore
McClain was walking home after purchasing an iced tea at a convenience store on August 24, 2019, KMGH reported.
He was wearing a ski mask at the time, his family told the member, because he was “anemic and gets cold easily.”
After receiving the “suspicious person” call, three white officers detained McClain.
McClain resisted contact with officers, the police report says, and a fight ensued. In one of the officers’ body cameras, McClain is heard saying, “I am an introvert, respect the limits I am talking about.”
The body camera video shows McClain telling officers that he was trying to stop his music to listen to them, then they begin to arrest him. An officer is heard saying to another, “He just grabbed your gun, buddy.”
The video shows an officer fighting McClain on the ground.
At one point during the fight, an officer is heard saying to McClain, “If you keep playing, I’m going to take my dog out and he will bite you.”
An officer placed McClain in a chokehold and lost consciousness briefly, according to an overview of the incident provided by police. They released the hold, the report says, and he started fighting again. When paramedics arrived at the scene, they administered ketamine to sedate McClain, according to the report. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
An autopsy did not determine the cause of death, but listed intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery as contributing factors, according to the police summary. The coroner found that the amount of ketamine in his system is a therapeutic amount.
There was no official determination on how McClain died, and Adams County District Attorney Dave Young told CNN last week that it was an important factor in not prosecuting the case.
“In my business, I can’t take a case to court because we don’t know the answers to those questions,” Young told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday. “I can’t take a case to the jury where I don’t know what the cause of death is in a murder case.”
Attorney General Phil Weiser will now investigate McClain’s death on the governor’s orders. The city of Aurora is planning a separate investigation into the actions of first responders in the case.
Now she said, “I don’t know who to trust anymore.”
Sheneen McClain wanted to share photos of her son in the hospital after his confrontation with the police because, according to Newman, people should look into the eyes of the horrors of racism.
“She shares them with intention,” Newman said.
Protests erupt over McClain’s death
More than 2 million people signed a petition urging officials to conduct a new investigation into McClain’s death, prompting the governor’s call to re-examine the case.
“Last year, we stood on the steps of the city center demanding an investigation and what do we hear then? Crickets,” Newman, the McClain family attorney, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday. “Why did it take nearly a year, international media attention, millions of people who signed a petition for a responsible adult to finally step forward and do what should have happened from the beginning?”
Newman said it is ridiculous that the autopsy report does not have a cause of death.
“The autopsy was attended by two members of the Aurora Police Department, two members of the district attorney’s office, and he leans back to tell everything except the truth,” Newman told Lemon.
And Newman attributed the lack of evidence to officers who vacated her body cameras, which she believed was intentional. All three came out when officers approached McClain, and at three different times in the video, people were told to remove or turn off the cameras, he said.
Aurora Acting Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said the community was recovering from the death of McClain, who said “he was not only a beloved son, brother and friend, but also a valued member of our community.”
“I have heard from our community, and I am listening today,” Wilson wrote. “Their voices and concerns are not falling on deaf ears. I am dedicated to significant reform, just as all the good officers here today are.”
CNN’s Leslie Perrot, Madeline Holcombe, and Brad Parks contributed to this report.