When U.S. Rep. Jason Crow argued in favor of a police reform bill on the floor of the U.S. House last month, he told the chamber and the nation the story of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black Aurora man who died after a struggle with police last year.
Wednesday, news broke that three Aurora police officers are suspended for taking photos near the site where McClain died after being put in a chokehold that would be barred under a Colorado law passed last month.
The three officers, who have not been identified publicly yet, were suspended, interim police chief Vanessa Wilson said Wednesday.
“This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion,” she said in a statement. “This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”
The McClain family released a statement through their lawyer.
“Just when we thought the Aurora Police could not be any worse, they somehow find a new low,” the family stated.
The three officers involved in the incident involving McClain did not face any criminal charges. The officers said McClain, who was wearing a full-face mask, refused to stop walking when they tried to talk to him, then resisted when they tried to detain him.
Last week Gov. Jared Polis asked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to reopen the case, which could lead to charges against the officers.
“Over the last month, millions of Americans, many for the first time, heard the story of Elijah McClain,” Crow said on June 26. “His final words leave us shattered, but at home in Aurora where Elijah died in police custody, the pain is even more acute.”
Aurora police sustained more negative press last weekend when officers in riot gear dispersed tear gas at what was believed to be a peaceful protest of McClain’s at City Center Park, including local violinists. McClain was known to play his violin to soothe stray cats.
Police reportedly told protesters in the park that they had to disperse people from an “illegal gathering.”
The local congressman and former Army ranger and combat leader called officers’ actions in that situation “outrageous,” and combined with the photos he is “dumbfounded.”
“The lack of empathy is astonishing,” Crow said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“The hard conversations in Aurora about racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic inequalities are playing out on the TVs in living rooms across America. But as we struggle, we rise and I’m so grateful for those in our community who are leading the way for change. Let us lift up the activists who are organizing and holding elected leaders accountable, those in the state House who have passed the most transformative police reform bill in the country, the leadership at Aurora NAACP who has led the charge for equality, and the local press corps who told Elijah’s story long before it was national news. But most of all, I’m inspired by Ms. Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, who for months has fought for justice and has never wavered.”
Crow urged the involvement of federal authorities.
“As the FBI, Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s office, and special prosecutor continue their investigation, I hope we as a community continue this movement and find ways, big and small, to eradicate racism from our society,” he stated.