Aurora, Colo., Officers Under Investigation for Allegedly Appearing in Photos Mocking Elijah McClain’s Death at His Memorial

Illustration for article titled Aurora, Colo., Officers Under Investigation for Allegedly Appearing in Photos Mocking Elijah McClain’s Death at His Memorial
Photo: Michael Ciaglo (Getty Images)

Several Aurora, Colo., police officers have been put on administrative leave and are being investigated after showing up in disturbing photos at a memorial for Elijah McClain, who died after an altercation with police in 2019. The memorial was held near the site of McClain’s detainment by police officers, which led to his death.

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According to CBS Denver, three officers allegedly took photos of each other reenacting the chokehold that McClain was put in when confronted by police officers while walking home on August 24 of last year.

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The Aurora Police Department hasn’t confirmed what the officers were doing in the photos they took because “we’re still in the middle of an active investigation, we’re not commenting on it at this time,” Lt. Chris Amsler, a spokesman with the APD told the Washington Post.

The department’s interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, released the following statement late Monday night:

“Thursday afternoon, I was apprised of allegations reported to Internal Affairs by an Aurora Police Officer alleging multiple Aurora Police officers were depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died. All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities.

“I immediately ordered Internal Affairs to make this investigation their top priority. This accelerated investigation was completed this evening.

“This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion. This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”

McClain’s death has received new attention and scrutiny amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and a national spotlight on systemic racism in policing. Vigils and demonstrations honoring McClain have been held across the country recently and a new investigation into the 23-year-old’s death was announced last week.

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It’s no great mystery why no one wants to see cops at memorials for Black people who were killed by police officers (and we all know that, regardless of what they were doing in the photos, there’s nothing appropriate about cops taking pictures of each other at this kind of event), but a recent confrontation between police and protesters at a peaceful demonstration for McClain further illustrates why they aren’t welcome.

From the Post:

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman (R) has called for a special city council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the police department’s handling of a Saturday protest over McClain’s death, which saw law enforcement in riot gear use pepper spray amid a peaceful vigil.

“People congregated to pay tribute to [McClain], to call for accountability for his death, and to play their violins in his honor,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said on his Monday show. “And then Aurora police basically recreated the dynamic of McClain’s death.”

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“The tragic death of Elijah McClain brought out many peaceful people over the weekend who want their voices heard, and unfortunately there were disruptions that overshadowed the broader message,” Coffman said in a statement Monday. “I look forward to working with City Council to understand more and make sure we are upfront and transparent with our residents.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

Thanks for the well-worded header and article. I read Denver Post and NYT articles and had to guess at the timeline and piece together that these officers were mocking his summary execution as some twisted anti-protest protest.

And hooray to the one good apple who reported this obscenity to the appropriate authorities.