Colorado must re-examine the death of a young black man in police custody after mounting outrage and a petition signed by more than two million people.
Governor Jared Polis said confidence in law enforcement was “incredibly important now more than ever.”
Elijah McClain died after being strangled and injected with ketamine in Denver last year.
Her case is among several to receive renewed care after George Floyd’s death last month.
The alleged murder of Floyd by the Minneapolis police has sparked a wave of protests around the world against police brutality and institutional racism.
On Thursday, New York police said an officer who appeared in pictures to use a banned choke during an arrest in Queens on Sunday had been arrested and charged with strangulation.
New York police banned the bottlenecks in 1993, and earlier this month Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation criminalizing their use.
What did Governor Polis say?
In a series of tweets, he said he had heard from many Colorado residents that they had “expressed concern about the investigation into Elijah McClain’s death.”
“A fair and objective process free of real or perceived bias to investigate killings involving officers is critical,” he said.
“As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are evaluating the next steps.”
Almost 2.7 million people have signed a petition demanding justice and calling for a more in-depth investigation.
What happened to Elijah McClain?
The unarmed 23-year-old was walking in the Aurora suburb of Denver on August 24 of last year when he was arrested by three white police officers.
A district attorney report later said there had been an emergency call about a “suspicious person” that matched his description.
There was a fight after McClain resisted contact with officers, who wanted to search him to see if he was armed, according to the report. In body camera images, Mr. McClain can be heard saying, “I am an introvert, respect the limits I am talking about.”
One of the officers says “he’s going for your gun” and they throw him to the ground and put him in a stranglehold.
The report says McClain lost consciousness, was released from the choke and started fighting again.
Officers called for help, and firefighters and an ambulance responded. A fire doctor injected Mr. McClain with 500 mg of the drug ketamine to sedate him.
McClain was then placed on “soft restraints” on a stretcher and inside the ambulance. The doctor who had administered the medication noted that Mr. McClain’s chest “was not rising on its own and had no pulse.” He was declared brain dead on August 27.
McClain’s family alleges that officers used excessive force for about 15 minutes when McClain vomited, begged them to stop, and repeatedly told them that he was unable to breathe. Officers also threatened to put a police dog on him, the family said.
The family’s lawyer, Mari Newman, said images of the incident showed that “the police were nothing short of sadistic, brutalizing and terrorizing a gentle and gentle man as he lay begging.”
A coroner’s autopsy determined that the cause of death was undetermined.
Who Was Elijah McClain?
Ms. Newman described him as an “angel among humans” who played his violin with animals at a shelter waiting to be adopted “so they would not feel alone.”
His mother, Sheneen McClain, wrote on a fundraising page that “he brought joy to everyone who knew him. The world is a darker place without him.”
She said she loved running because of the sense of freedom it gave her, she enjoyed drawing and had been taught to play the piano, guitar, cello, and violin.
He was “changing this world, one by one, wherever it went with acceptance of ourselves and what makes us happy,” he said.
What happened to the investigation of his death?
In October, McClain’s family demanded an independent investigation and that officers face murder charges.
But in his November report, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young said he would not charge the officers.
“According to the research presented and the applicable Colorado law, there is no reasonable probability of success in proving any state crime beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” he said.
In January, the city of Aurora launched an external investigation, but earlier this month it fired the lawyer who was directing it, a former police officer specializing in use of force cases, after concerns about its neutrality arose.
Authorities told US media that they were now launching a new review of the case and were “considering a panel of experts from across the country.”
In a statement to the CBS news, McClain family attorney Mari Newman said Aurora “has no intention of taking responsibility for murdering an innocent young man. All her effort is to defend her brutality at all costs and lie to the public. serve. “
Meanwhile, District Attorney Young this month told Colorado Politics that “he was not going to open an investigation because people are signing a petition.”
Earlier this month, Aurora police banned the choke used against McClain. The new rules also say officers must step in if they see a colleague using excessive force.