DENVER – Federal law enforcement investigators said Tuesday evening that they have been reviewing the facts of the Elijah McClain case for a possible civil rights investigation and said they were aware of the latest photo allegations involving Aurora police officers and were gathering more information.
In a rare joint statement regarding an ongoing investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Denver Division confirmed they had been looking into McClain’s case.
“The standard practice of the Department of justice is to not discuss the existence or progress of ongoing investigations. However, there are specific cases in which doing so is warranted if such information is in the best interest of the public and public safety. Recent attention on the death of Elijah McClain warrants such disclosure,” the joint statement issued around 5:45 p.m MT. Tuesday read.
The federal offices said that the FBI Denver Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado started reviewing the facts of the McClain case last year “for a potential federal civil rights investigation.”
The departments and office said that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has also been involved.
The release said that the investigation is ongoing and that federal investigators are working to gather more evidence from the Aurora Police Department and others involved. The federal officials said that “[t]o date, the city of Aurora has been cooperating.”
The federal officials also said they were aware of reports regarding three APD officers placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into a photo in which they were pictured mimicking the carotid hold in which McClain was placed prior to his death, as sources said earlier Tuesday.
“We are gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted,” the federal officials said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Colorado, DOJ Civil Rights Division and Denver Division of the FBI said they “will have no further comment until both of those reviews are completed.”
Two sources said Tuesday about the substance of the photos after Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on Monday night announced the officers were being investigated for a photograph but declined to say what the photograph showed.
The picture depicting the involved officers was sent in a group text to other officers before it was reported to police officials, the sources said. They added that the interim chief had already notified the officers of their punishments but said the officers would be able to appeal. Aurora police have not commented on what sources have said regarding the photos or the punishment.
The photos were reported to the department last Thursday by a fellow Aurora police officer, the sources said. Aurora police spokesperson Officer Matthew Longshore said the police chief review board – comprised of the department’s three division chiefs and the deputy police chief – were reviewing the photos and will make a decision on whether, or how to, punish the officers.