Aurora City Council moves closer to approving independent investigation into Elijah McClain’s death

The resolution will be heard by the full city council next week.

Candles and flowers for Elijah McClain Vigil

Candles, art, posters and flowers were placed at the memorial for Elijah McClain on July 11, 2020, at Utah Park in Aurora, Colorado.

(Alyson McClaran for Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

An Aurora City Council committee on Thursday moved forward a resolution for an independent investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.

The council’s Public Safety, Courts & Civil Service committee discussed the scope of the investigation that they hope will provide an independent review of the incident that lead to McClain’s death last year. City Manager Jim Twombly said the investigation will focus on the actions of police and paramedics involved in subduing McClain on Aug. 24, 2019. He died three days later.

“Specifically, we’re going to ask that the investigators look at the actions of the police officers in response to the call and on-scene and during the subsequent criminal investigation and internal force use review of the incident,” Twombly said.

Twombly also said investigators will be asked to review the use of ketamine, a sedative that paramedics used on McClain, and the emergency medical protocols. They will review both Aurora police and Aurora Fire Rescue personnel who responded to the scene.

The investigators will be asked to make policy, procedure and training recommendations and complete a report that will be made public once the investigation is done.

The resolution will be heard by the full council during their scheduled July 20 meeting. A draft of the resolution requests the investigation be complete “its investigation as expeditiously as possible.”

Committee chairperson and at-large Councilmember Allison Hiltz said Jonathan Smith of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs is being considered to join the investigation. Hiltz said he’s a civil rights attorney who has experience working with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. Hiltz said she’s reached out to Smith to talk about how the investigation would work. Additional investigative team members are under consideration.

McClain’s death has resurfaced on both the local and national stage after months of protests against racism and police violence. It’s led to the state opening its own investigation last month, led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office, while federal authorities also last month announced they had been investigating the case since 2019 for potential civil rights violation.

Hiltz said the investigators they hire will be asked to coordinate with the attorney general’s office to make sure there’s no conflict or interference with the state’s investigation.

District Attorney Dave Young last November said police officers involved in stopping McClain last year committed no criminal acts. He issued a statement last month to reiterate his position and explain why he declined to charge officers.

Earlier this month, Aurora police fired three officers over their involvement in a photograph mocking McClain’s death. The photo was taken last year. Those former cops appealed their termination, while a fourth officer involved resigned. One of the officers fired, Jason Rosenblatt, was among the cops who stopped McClain last year. Rosenblatt was fired after he received the photo and responded with “haha.” He has appealed his firing.

Thursday’s meeting included an overview of police disciplinary processes.

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