The circumstances of Elijah McClain’s death are as dire as any of the now infamous murders in the Black Lives Matter era. Last year, McClain lost his life less than a week after meeting police on a drive home to Aurora, Colorado. McClain, who was anemic, regularly wore a ski mask because he quickly cooled down. Last August, a resident saw him wearing his mask while returning home from the store, called the police and denounced him as “schematic”.
According to the body camera video footage and news reports, when officers arrived, they immediately marched toward McClain and boarded him. McClain tensed as the officers seized him and held him down. During the altercation, officers put McClain into a stranglehold, threatened to be bitten by his police dog, and deliberately obstructed the view of their body cameras, while McClain asked for help, begged forgiveness, and explained that he did not want to harm anyone. .
McClain vomited several times during the arrest and was handcuffed behind his back. When the paramedics arrived, they injected him with 500 milligrams of the sedative ketamine. McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. Three days later, he was declared brain dead and his life support was taken away.
Despite his tragic death and having committed no crime, the initial investigation found no criminal irregularities on the part of the agents. However, in the weeks following this year’s national uprising against police brutality, new attention was paid to the McClain story, which brought the case back to life.
On June 25, Colorado Governor Jared Polis ordered prosecutors to reopen the investigation into McClain’s death.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and raise the quest for justice on his behalf to state concern,” Polis said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Floyd’s case draws new attention to old police killings
McClain is one of many people killed by the police whose case has drawn new attention after protests against the murder of George Floyd. In recent weeks, Google searches for the McClain name have skyrocketed after remaining relatively unknown nationally in the year since he was killed. So far, more than 3 million people have signed an online petition calling for justice for McClain.
The new attention is due in part to activism from friends and family and in part to the new wave of social media campaigns advocating for comics, images, and artistic depictions of McClain and other black people killed by the police.
Much of the content of these social media campaigns contrasts the care and restraint the police have shown in arresting white citizens like Dylann Roof, who shot nine black parishioners in South Carolina, against the force used on black citizens like Walter Scott, who was shot. in the back after running away from a traffic stop. Comparison posts were drastically reduced for McClain, who was killed in Aurora, Colorado, the same city where police successfully arrested a white man who shot and killed 12 people in a movie theater.
The political details of George Floyd’s protests have raised others killed by police, including Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Javier Ambler in Austin. These names humanize police murder statistics, which have hovered around 1,000 people annually since 2015. Similarly, the protests have also brought new scrutiny to police impropriety in the murders.
As noted in the George Floyd case, the Rayshard Brooks case, and more broadly in televised brutality towards peaceful protesters, officers have regularly omitted crucial details in documents and statements after using excessive force on civilians. Just this week, behind the stone walls, the Philadelphia Police Department apologized for the excessive use of force against protesters after a New York Times. The investigation exposed the department for using tear gas against the trapped protesters.
The individual fraudulent police cases combined with the large-scale controversies after the protests have led to more calls for accountability and transparency around the use of police force for old and new cases.
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