Cop who stopped Elijah McClain fired over chokehold photos

Clay Curtis
July 4, 2020

Those were the words of Aurora's interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson Friday, announcing that she had fired three officers involved with taking and distributing a photo reenacting a stranglehold near the site of where Elijah McClain died almost a year ago.

"The fact that three on-duty, in-uniform police officers thought that it was appropriate to reenact the murder, jokingly, shows that the department is rotten to the core", said Mari Newman, the McClain family's lawyer. Another officer had resigned the day before.

Rosenblatt was the only officer involved in the photos who actually responded to the arrest that ended up in McClain's death.

Word of the photos emerged soon after Polis' announcement.

One photo depicts Dittrich and Jones recreating a carotid neck hold, while a grinning Marrero stands nearby.

McClain's family viewed the photo before it was publicly released Friday. A march is also planned for Friday evening, from the place where officers stopped McClain, to Aurora's police headquarters.

"Do not allow Elijah McClain's life to be in vain".

The police union reacted with anger to Rosenblatt's firing, saying he was only terminated for receiving the photos, which he had no part in making, and saying there had not been sufficient investigation.

Last August 24, McClain was walking home from a convenience store when officers responding to a 911 call -someone had reported a man dancing while wearing a ski mask, although there was no suggestion he'd committed a crime - ordered him to stop.

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During the confrontation, McClain said he could not breathe, according to audio recordings released by police. McClain died after officers arresting McClain placed him in a carotid choke hold. He was declared brain-dead several days later.

One of the officers put McClain in a chokehold, which cut off blood flow to his brain.

The U.S. attorney's office, the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI announced this week they are looking into whether to launch a civil rights investigation.

A local prosecutor declined to file charges against the officers or paramedics, citing an autopsy that listed the cause of death as undetermined.

The federal offices said that the FBI Denver Division and U.S. Attorney's Office for Colorado started reviewing the facts of the McClain case past year "for a potential federal civil rights investigation". "Stop. Stop. I have a right to stop you because you're being suspicious".

An attorney representing the McClain family compared the former officers' photo to images of lynchings in which white people posed with the bodies of murdered Black people.

Neither the officers in that incident - Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema and Rosenblatt - nor the medics were criminally charged after an investigation by District Attorney Dave Thomas last fall.

As other officers join to restrain McClain, he begs them to let go and says, "You guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen".

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