Elijah McClain’s mother says officers “murdered” her son, as pressure increases for new investigation

The mother of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last summer after being confronted by police in Aurora, Colorado, says her son was killed. McClain’s death has recently gained renewed attention, and almost 3 million people have signed a petition asking for a re-examination of your case.

“They killed him. They are badges with badges,” Sheneen McClain told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud.

McClain said her son was a massage therapist who “wanted to heal” others. “He not only cured others, but he cured himself,” he said. “He was able to accept love and give love in different ways.”

The district attorney investigating the case, Dave Young, said McClain rejected repeated requests by the police to stop the night of the incident last August. His family says he was only listening to music while walking home when the police approached him.

Young’s compiled report quotes McClain saying, “Can you leave me alone? You started arresting me and I was stopping my music to listen, now let me go.”

McClain was wearing a ski mask at the time. According to his family, due to some previous physical problems, it was not uncommon for McClain to wear a mask to give him comfort and ease. McClain can be heard on the officer’s body cameras saying, “I’m just different. That’s all.”

Young says McClain was carrying a plastic bag and when police tried to pet him, they refused. The situation escalated further after Officer Randy Roedema said McClain was reaching for one of the officer’s weapons. The three officers carried McClain to the ground, according to the report.

Attorney Mari Newman, who represents the family, said there would be evidence if McClain had grabbed the gun. “Don’t you think if I had really grabbed someone’s gun, we would see fingerprints that have been lifted off the gun?” she said.

When asked if he found any evidence to support Roedema’s claim, Young said he “had no evidence to contradict that.”

McClain is then heard pleading with the police as they board him and put him in a stranglehold. “Let me go, don’t let me go, I’m an introvert, please respect my limits that I’m talking about,” McClain said. The officer who allegedly put McClain in a stranglehold, Nathan Woodyard, later told a detective that he thought McClain might have weapons against him, but that he would not be allowed to search him.

“I have no weapons. I don’t do those things,” McClain told officers before falling unconscious after being held with an apparent stranglehold. No weapon was ever found.

Paramedics later arrived on the scene and a doctor gave McClain ketamine to sedate him. McClain was rushed to the hospital but suffered cardiac arrest that led to “anoxic encephalopathy” or loss of blood flow to the brain, and was declared brain dead three days later.

According to the district attorney’s report, the coroner was unable to determine the cause of death, but did not rule out the possibility that ketamine contributed. The coroner wrote that McClain received a “therapeutic level” of ketamine, but may have had an “idiosyncratic” reaction to the drug.

Young made the initial decision not to charge the officers. When asked if the officer’s actions were justified, he said, “Legally, yes.”

“They could have done a million things differently,” Young said. “He did not need to die. And the fact that he died does not guarantee the basis of the criminal charges.”

Millions of people are now demanding that officers be removed from service and that a deeper investigation be carried out. CBS Denver reports that the District Attorney’s Office has received more than 10,000 phone calls and 2,000 emails asking that the three officers linked to McClain’s death be charged.

“I am amazed at how long it has taken the world to realize this case,” Newman said.

In a statement released Thursday, Young called McClain’s death “tragic and unnecessary,” but reiterated his belief that the evidence does not support the criminal charges.

“While officers undoubtedly used force in this incident, based on the evidence and applicable law at the time of Mr. McClain’s death, the prosecution cannot refute the officers’ reasonable belief in the need to use strength, “he wrote.

Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain’s death could have been prevented, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but rather on the revealed evidence of the investigation and applicable Colorado law. “