The family of Elijah McClain, who died last month following a rough arrest by police in the Denver suburb of Aurora, said they have more questions than answers since their loved one’s passing. Now they’re demanding the officers involved be charged and are calling for the body camera video to be released.
The grieving family, joined by their attorney Mari Newman, continued calls for police accountability in the case at a press conference in the Colorado city Tuesday. Newman said McClain’s parents were allowed access to the police footage after they agreed not to record or re-release it.
Elijah McClain, 23, was taken off life support several days after a rough arrest by police his family says left him brain dead. (Photo: CBS Denver)
Newman recounted the disturbing scene as police took the young man into custody last month.
“He’s laying on the ground vomiting, he’s begging, [and] he’s saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ ” she told reporters, according to CBS Denver. “One of the officers says, ‘Don’t move again. If you move again, I’m calling in a dog to bite you.’"
McClain, 23, was arrested by Aurora Police on Aug. 24 after authorities got a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask. Relatives said the young man was walking home from the store and often wore the mask because h e is anemic and gets cold easily.
A passerby thought it was “odd,” however, and dialed 911.
Minutes later, McClain was confronted by officers, who “slammed him up against a wall” and “tackled him to the ground,” Newman said.
“They continued to terrorize and torture him,” she added, noting that the officers placed McClain in a chokehold at least twice. “We can hear him begging. We hear him identifying himself. We hear him saying, ‘I’ve got my ID.’"
The victim’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said the video was difficult to sit through and called the officers’ behavior “inhumane.”
In a statement, Aurora Police said McClain was combative and initially refused to heed their commands. Paramedics and Aurora Fire Rescue officials were eventually called in, they said, due to the “level of physical force applied while restraining the subject and his agitated mental state.”
McClain was then given a “standard medication” to help him calm down. He would go on to suffer cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital.
Since the incident, Aurora police officials have remained mum about the extent of McClain’s injuries or the medication he received. His family was forced to take him off life support days later after they said the scuffle left McClain brain dead.
“He was a happy young man, he was always energetic,” his mother said.
The family’s attorney also raised concerns about the conduct of the cops involved. According to Newman, there were three responding officers whose body cameras were on at the time of the incident. All three were “dislodged” during the tussle with McClain and only captured audio of the arrest.
“Well, that’s awfully convenient isn’t it?” Newman said, citing a point in the clip where one officer is heard telling another, “move your camera, dude.”
Authorities said McClain was unarmed at the time and had no prior arrests. The family is still awaiting the results of the coroner’s report.
According to CBS Denver, police have agreed to release the police bodycam recording once their investigation is complete, after which the case will go to the district attorney’s office for review.
The McClain family has since asked that the case be turned over to an independent investigator.
Watch more in the video below.