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Top prosecutor in Derek Chauvin trial talks police reform during Colorado visit

On Elijah McClain's birthday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison talked with Denverites about policing.
Minnesota AG discusses ways to end police violence with Denverites
Posted at 6:51 AM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 08:51:08-05

DENVER — Sunday marked what would have been Elijah McClain's 28th birthday.

McClain was killed in 2019 when Aurora police officers responded to a 911 call about a "sketchy" man. McClain, who was unarmed and had not committed a crime, was put into a neck hold by police. Paramedics administered a sedative called ketamine, which officials said led to cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. He was declared brain dead days later and died Aug. 30, 2019.

The two Aurora paramedics who injected McClain with ketamine were convicted of criminally negligent homicide, but the jury was split on the charges regarding the unlawful administration of the powerful sedative.

Three former Aurora Police Officers — Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema, and Nathan Woodyard — were all taken to trial. Only Roedema was convicted of the charges against him. He is appealing that jury decision.

“I don't think a 'not guilty' is a failure. I think the failure is to never even bring the case forward for consideration," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said.

Ellison was the top prosecutor in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of the charges related to the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

“2020 will be remembered as a time when, in the midst of a pandemic, we had a massive social reckoning," Ellison said. “There were protests and demonstrations in almost every city, including Denver.”

Hear Ellison's message in the video below:

Top prosecutor in Derek Chauvin trial talks police reform in Colorado visit

Ellison wrote a book about what he learned during the trial, titled "Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence." On Sunday, Ellison visited Tattered Cover to discuss the novel with Colorado residents.

“Not every police officer is Derek Chauvin," Ellison said. “People like Derek Chauvin discourage good candidates from coming forth. I think that if people know that the dignity and the honor of the profession will be upheld, that it will attract people who want to do the job.”

Ellison suggested a handful of ways to curb police violence. Some of the more attainable options, according to Ellison, are a greater emphasis on how to handle mental health crises, using cameras to enforce the law instead of traffic stops in certain situations, and a national database that tracks police violence.

“What we're doing is upholding high standards, and there's nothing wrong with having high standards for law enforcement... If there's no system of accountability, then almost every other measure you try to do will not work," said Ellison. "We've got to put a system in place which will guarantee that the constitutional rights of everyone are going to be respected and observed... If we do that, better days are ahead. More cooperation, more public safety. Those things are around the corner for us if we're willing to do those things.”

In 2023, the City of Denver paid protesters a $1 million settlement.

In Aurora, a record settlement of $15 million was paid to the parents of McClain.