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Aurora city council to vote on independent investigation into Elijah McClain's death

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Posted at 1:08 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 15:08:51-04

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora City Council on Monday night will hold a vote on whether to approve a team of outside investigators to look into the Elijah McClain case, Mayor Mike Coffman said.

The investigators would "include a team of experts who will thoroughly examine the actions of Aurora police, firefighters and paramedics" in the McClain incident, a city news release said.

“It is imperative we quickly and urgently move forward with this investigation so we can provide answers to our community," Coffman said.

Aurora had hired a third-party investigator to look into the case. But when it was revealed that the investigator, a Connecticut-based attorney, was a former police officer who has worked on behalf of police departments, the city cut ties with him, amid pressure for an independent review of the case.

McClain's August death following an encounter with Aurora police has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, with calls for justice coming from across the country.

McClain, 23, was unarmed when police officers who were responding a report of a suspicious person took him into custody using a carotid control hold. One officer requested that a paramedic give McClain a dose of ketamine "due to the level of physical force applied while resisting the subject and his agitate mental state," officials have said.

McClain suffered a heart attack and died six days later.

The involved officers — Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard — were cleared by a department review board and did not face criminal charges.

In recent weeks, Aurora councilmembers Allison Hiltz, Curtis Gardener and Angela Lawson have called for the independent investigation.

"Trust is already eroded—delaying action will only cause further strain in our community," Hiltz said in a news release Monday.

The council vote will follow a weekend of protests in Aurora. Police officials on Friday released images of three officers who posed for pictures at a memorial site for McClain — in one picture, they imitated the carotid hold used on McClain.

Officers Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich were fired and officer Jaron Jones resigned. The officers sent the photos to officer Jason Rosenblatt, who was involved in McClain's arrest. Rosenblatt replied, "ha ha," police said, and he was also fired.

In June, Gov. Jared Polis appointed state Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate the case. The Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office also confirmed it is working with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to investigate the matter.