Aurora, Colorado interim police chief Vanessa Wilson announced that multiple officers from the city’s police department have been placed on leave over photos taken near the site where Elijah McClain died.
McLain was a 23-year-old Black man who died in 2019 when officers placed him in a chokehold during an arrest. His name was added to a growing number of Black people who died at the hands of police, which has sparked protests nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in May.
Wilson did not specify what the photos were depicting or when they were taken but said in a statement that the allegations stem from a report to internal affairs.
Wilson promised that details of the investigation would be released to the public “in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion.”
“I immediately ordered Internal Affairs to make this investigation their top priority,” the statement from Wilson read. “All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.”
In August 2019, McClain was arrested after Aurora police responded to a 911 call reporting a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask.
Officers at the time claimed that that McClain, who was unarmed and was not committing a crime, of resisting arrest. He was tackled to the ground and put in a carotid hold.
First responders who arrived at the scene injected him with ketamine and transported to the hospital. He had a heart attack on the way and was declared brain dead days later.
The officers involved were cleared of possible wrongdoing over McClain’s death. Faulty bodycam footage was released months later and an autopsy listed his cause of death as “undetermined.”
Adams County District Attorney Dave Young told CNN that the autopsy result was the major factor in deciding against prosecuting the case.
“I cannot take a case to the jury where I don’t know what the cause of death is on a homicide case,” Young said.
Since protests erupted over Floyd’s death, McClain’s case has gained renewed attention. Governor Jared Polis appointed a special prosecutor to reexamine McClain’s death after more than 2 million people signed a petition urging officials to conduct a new investigation.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser will investigate the death after Polis’ order. The city of Aurora has announced plans to conduct a separate investigation into the actions of the first responders.