The family of Elijah McClain is calling out the Aurora police after a weekend of violence and photos that are shockingly insensitive, according to reports.
According to CBS Denver, three Aurora cops are under investigation for snapping inappropriate photos during the memorial for McClain, who died in August 2019 after police put him in a carotid restraint, otherwise known as a chokehold.
CBS4 investigator Brian Maass reported on Monday that multiple sources “say the photos were disseminated” within the Aurora police department “to other officers and showed the officers reenacting the hold that preceded McClains death.”
Late Monday night, the police department’s interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, released a statement saying:
“Thursday afternoon, I was apprised of allegations reported to Internal Affairs by an Aurora Police Officer alleging multiple Aurora Police officers were depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died. All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.”
Wilson went on to say that an accelerated investigation was completed on Monday. “This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion. This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”
In response to the photos, McClain’s family issued a statement via their lawyer, saying the Aurora police have reached a “new low.”
“Just when we thought the Aurora Police could not be any worse, they somehow find a new low,” reads their statement. “This is a department where officers tackled an innocent young black man for no reason, inflicted outrageous force – including two carotid chokeholds – for fifteen minutes as he pled for his life, joked when he vomited, and threatened to sic a dog on him for not lying still enough as he was dying.”
They continued, “They tampered with their body cameras to hide the evidence. They exonerated the killers. They deployed riot police and spewed pepper gas on peaceful protestors [sic] at a vigil of mourners playing the violin. And now this.”
The Aurora police faced major criticism for breaking up a largely peaceful vigil for Elijah on Saturday. According to The Guardian, thousands of supporters gathered in Aurora where local musicians played violins at a vigil in City Center Park. McClain had played violin for much of his life and he had even used his talents to soothe stray cats.
When evening came, cops started telling demonstrators that they had to leave the “illegal gathering” or they would use pepper spray to disperse folks, according to the Denver Post. As cops advances, demonstrators locked arms to create a human chain around the violinists, shielding them from the cops. In clips of the incident captured by bystanders, violins can be heard before the music is drowned out by screams from demonstrators and from cops demanding protestors leave.
Even though Elijah died last year, fights for his cause were reinvigorated following the worldwide protests against police violence. After the deaths of people like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade due to police violence, protesters have been taking to the streets to demand justice and investment in Black lives.
Advocates for Elijah’s cause are demanding the three officers and two paramedics involved be fired. Last week, the three officers were removed from patrol duty.