AURORA, Colo. — Police identified Monday a person of interest in the shooting of two people who were marching Saturday during Elijah McClain protests. The shooting happened as a Jeep drove into the crowd that was marching on Interstate 225. At least two people were injured as a result of the shooting, Aurora police said.
One person was shot in the leg and another suffered a graze wound to the head, according to police.
It was unclear if one shooter or multiple people fired rounds.
Police released photos of the person Sunday evening, which were provided by a witness, in hopes it would help Aurora investigators determine the man’s identity. The department tweeted Monday that thanks to several tips they were able to identify the person in the photos. They plan to release more information in the case later in the day.
They are asking anyone with information, photo or video evidence to contact Aurora CrimeStoppers at 720-913-STOP.
The shooting happened right as protestors were fleeing the oncoming Jeep.
"I heard a scream," one marcher said. "I looked over and saw a Jeep coming real fast. Everyone sort of ran off the highway. There were a couple of pops."
That marcher couldn't tell if the pops were gunfire, but said he did see one individual with some gauze wrapped around their leg. The protester who was taken to a hospital in stable condition.
Police made contact with the driver of the Jeep who told investigators crowds began surrounding, "yelling and striking his vehicle" a release said. The driver told police he was driving toward the protestors because he was "scared and trying to get away."
Police said the driver has not been arrested. However, the vehicle was impounded and an investigation is ongoing.
Organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the rally began around 5 p.m. as hundreds gathered on the lawn at the Aurora Municipal Center to rally for justice in the McClain case before marching onto the interstate.
The marchers said their rallies are having an impact.
"The current Black Lives Matter movement is one of the biggest social justice movements in American history," said Apryll Alexander. "It's creating change. We're creating laws. We're bringing awareness, across the country and across the globe, to the issues of police brutality, so they're critical."
Back at Aurora Municipal Center, the group returned and the protest began to escalate. Unruly protesters tore down a newly-installed fence surrounding police headquarters and targeted officers with objects, laser pointers and large fireworks, police said.
Using the plywood window coverings as a shield, some protesters began shattering windows to the municipal building and used pieces of the wood to start fires inside.
Around 10 p.m., protesters moved from the Aurora Municipal Center to Alameda Parkway, where they proceeded to block traffic.
Aurora police had earlier declared the protest an unlawful gathering and warned protesters they would be subject to arrest if they didn’t leave the area. Police tweeted around 10:07 p.m. that people were beginning to disperse.
Aurora mayor calls protesters who damaged courthouse 'domestic terrorists'
In a statement tweeted Sunday (and then later deleted), Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman called the protesters accused of damaging the municipal court building "domestic terrorists." Coffman said that the restraint police showed during Saturday's event plays into the hands of those wishing to cause more damage to the building. He is requesting a briefing with Aurora interim chief of police Monday to ascertain why the building was not "adequately defended."
"This morning I went over to the Aurora municipal complex to survey the damage from last nights violence. From the report that I received late last night, approximately 600 individuals attended the protest was over about 150 stayed behind. Those who remained sought to bait the police into a confrontation and to destroy as much public property as possible. The focus of their main effort was on the destruction of our court house where they managed to tear down the plywood protecting the large glass windows and smashed through all but one on the south side of the building. Make no mistake about it, the ones who remained behind were not protesters but domestic terrorists and they must be treated as such. I understand the our police department chose to show restraint last night by not using nonlethal munitions but now that these terrorists smell weakness, my concern is that they will be back again and again until they achieve their goal," Coffman wrote.
Coffman later deleted the tweet mentioning the words domestic terrorists, instead tweeting a second statement calling the protesters accused of damaging the courthouse as "using the protest as a cover for their violent actions."
— Mayor Mike Coffman (@AuroraMayorMike) July 26, 2020
Very little police presence
During the hours-long protest, Aurora police didn’t make their presence known. Our crew on the scene reported seeing very little officers around. That was in stark contrast to a protest at the same location a month ago where officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
A lawsuit was filed in response to Aurora police’s actions during the June 27 protest. The complaint seeks to prevent Aurora police in the future from using chemical agents; shooting projectiles indiscriminately into crowds; require all law enforcement officers deployed to protests to have their body cameras recording at all times; and allow orders for crowd dispersal only when there is imminent danger to people, not property.
McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died following an interaction with Aurora police last August. McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to a hospital after a responding officer requested that a paramedic give McClain a dose of ketamine "due to the level of physical force applied while restraining the subject and his agitated mental state," officials said.
The officers involved in his death did not face criminal charges and were found not to have violated department policies.
Last month, three Aurora police officers were fired after a photo mocking the death of McClain came to light. One of the three officers filed a lawsuit against the interim chief of police and the city over his termination. That lawsuit was filed earlier this month.