In the middle of a meeting Tuesday held by Aurora city council members and mayor Mike Coffman, who were answering questions about policing at recent protests, the FBI, Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division revealed they’ve been investigating Aurora’s handling of the death of Elijah McClain since it happened in 2019 for a potential civil rights violation.
“The standard practice of the Department of Justice is to not discuss the existence or progress of ongoing investigations. However, there are specific cases in which doing so is warranted if such information is in the best interest of the public and public safety. Recent attention on the death of Elijah McClain warrants such disclosure,” the statement begins.
“The matter is ongoing, and we are in the process of gathering additional evidence from the Aurora Police Department and other parties,” the statement continued. “To date, the City of Aurora has been cooperating.”
Protests have erupted in Aurora and around the U.S. over McClain’s death. The 23-year-old was walking along a road in Aurora last fall when someone called police to report a “sketchy” person flailing his arms and wearing a mask, which McClain frequently wore for health reasons. Officers subdued McClain, who was later injected with ketamine by first responders to subdue him. McClain suffered two heart attacks and died a few days later.
The DA declined to press charges against the officers, and a review board later cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Police dressed in riot gear met mostly peaceful protesters in Aurora over the weekend. They launched tear gas and shot pepper bullets into crowds, prompting outcry from community leaders and activists. On Monday, CBS 4 reported that multiple officers were on paid administrative leave after photos surfaced allegedly showing them near the place McClain was apprehended recreating the chokehold officers used to subdue him.
The photos are being considered in the potential FBI and Justice Department investigation.
“We are also aware of recent media reports about Aurora police officers being placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into a photograph in which those officers appeared. We are gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted.
“We will have no further comment until both of those reviews are completed,” it concluded.