It's been nearly a year since Elijah McClain was choked and beaten by three police officers in Aurora, CO, on Aug. 24, 2019. McClain died six days later after being pronounced brain dead, and the officers responsible were put on paid administrative leave and never apprehended. Amid ongoing protests addressing police brutality and racial inequality, many are just now learning about McClain's tragic death and subsequently demanding justice.
The 23-year-old massage therapist, described as a "sweet soul" by those who knew him, was walking home from buying iced tea at a local convenience store when a civilian called the police to report "suspicious" behaviour. McClain was wearing a ski mask because his anemia would often make him run cold, and he was waving his arms, likely because he was dancing to music playing in his headphones.
"I am an introvert. Please respect my boundaries."
When officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema arrived at the scene, McClain was alarmed and a struggle reportedly ensued. The officers acted with aggression and one restrained McClain by placing him in a carotid hold. According to body camera footage later released by the Aurora Police Department, McClain can be heard saying, "Let me go. I am an introvert. Please respect my boundaries that I am speaking," before repeatedly stating he could not breathe. When paramedics arrived, they administered ketamine to sedate McClain, and he suffered two heart attacks.
Following renewed public interest, the Aurora Police Department announced several policy changes, including a ban on carotid hold and a duty to simply observe "suspicious" persons from afar, as opposed to immediately making contact. More can and should be done to adequately address the insurmountable loss McClain's family and community have faced. Below are just a few ways you can help in the fight for justice.
- Sign and share the petition calling for a full investigation and demanding that the officers involved be taken off duty.
- Donate to (or share) the fundraising campaign started by McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain. The GoFundMe was originally created when McClain was still alive and on life support, but is now dedicated toward a foundation in his name.
- Call Aurora elected officials. Check out this resource to find relevant phone numbers for Colorado representatives, as well as a helpful guide to what you can say when you call.
- Email Aurora officials. If you're stumped on what to write, let this useful template inspire your own emails. Tweak the wording of general templates or write your own emails to avoid your messages being overlooked or filtered out. The link also provides email addresses for Aurora county representatives, so you know who to contact.
- Continue to share McClain's story, and look to the Justice For Elijah McClain Instagram account for further action items. The account is consistently updated with great resources for demanding justice, in addition to information about rallies and demonstrations you can participate in.
— Additional reporting by Yerin Kim