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Fired Aurora police officer in Elijah McClain photo, text scandal sues interim chief and city

Aurora officers fired over photo imitating carotid hold used on Elijah McClain
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 22, 2020

AURORA, Colo. – One of the three police officers fired over a photo mocking the death of Elijah McClain has filed a lawsuit against the interim chief of police and the city over his termination.

Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired from the police department by Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson on July 3, alleges in the suit he was denied an Independent Review Board (IRB) after requesting one three days prior to his dismissal.

Rosenblatt, who does not appear in the photo taken nearly two months after McClain’s death in 2019, was fired for replying “ha ha” after receiving the photo from a colleague. The former officer was one of the cops who responded to the initial call about McClain on August 24. Two of the officers in the photo – Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich – were also fired. A third officer, Jaron Jones, resigned before he was disciplined by the interim chief.

The suit, filed in Arapahoe County District Court a day before Rosenblatt’s termination, states Rosenblatt’s right to an IRB is "expressively set forth in the department’s directives" and that the chief of police can only discipline an officer without an IRB “only in matters involving criminal conduct by an officer,” of which there are none, Rosenblatt and his attorneys claim.

During a news conference in which she announced the dismissal of the three officers, Wilson said she accelerated the discipline process and “was able to do that legally.”

The lawsuit requests that a judge make a quick decision in the case and award Rosenblatt “all general and special damages” resulting from his dismissal.

All three officers involved in the fallout over the photo have since appealed their dismissals.

McClain, 23, was unarmed when he was approached by Aurora police on Aug. 24, 2019. Police put McClain in a carotid hold, which limits blood flow to the brain, after stopping him while he was walking home. When he became unresponsive, paramedics gave him ketamine, police have said. McClain had a heart attack and died six days later.

City of Aurora spokesperson Julie Patterson confirmed the existence of the lawsuit but said the city was unable to comment.

"We can confirm the existence of the lawsuit but we are unable to provide additional information at this time due to pending litigation," Patterson said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Aurora did respond to a request for comment on this story.