AURORA | A pair of Aurora police officers recently fired for taking photos in the same location where Elijah McClain was stopped on his way home from a store last year have appealed their ousters with the city’s Civil Service Commission, a city spokesman confirmed Thursday.
A third officer who received and responded “ha ha” when he was texted the photos also appealed his recent firing late in the day on July 9, city officials confirmed.
As first reported by the Denver Post, Officers Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich appealed their terminations with the city body that oversees police hiring and firing on July 8, according to city spokesman Michael Bryant.
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson fired both Marrero and Dittrich, as well as Officer Jason Rosenblatt, for their involvement in the dissemination of two selfies on July 3. Dittrich and Marrero posed in the photo with fellow officer Jaron Jones last October, imitating the carotid control used on McClain on Billings Street on Aug. 24, 2019. McClain died six days later.
Jones resigned from the department the day before Wilson announced her disciplinary recommendations. Rosenblatt, who was one of the three officers who originally detained McClain, was fired because he responded “haha” upon being texted the photo.
The civil service commission is now in the process of scheduling hearings to consider the appeals, Bryant said. The dates of those hearings have yet to be finalized. After reviewing the evidence, which will likely include a nearly 250-page internal affairs report, the commissioners will decide to uphold, overturn or reduce Wilson’s disciplinary decisions.
In the internal affairs report, the officers who took the photos lamented their actions and explained that they sent the photo to Rosenblatt and fellow Officer Nathan Woodyard, who also stopped McClain, in an attempt to cheer them up.
“I saw my friend hurting and wanted to cheer him up for a brief moment,” Dittrich wrote in a letter to an internal review panel that also recommended firing him. “I regret my actions during this incident, but mostly I regret the hurt I brought about by doing what I did … I promise that if given the opportunity, I will spend the rest of my career making up for this mistake.”
Woodyard was not terminated even though he also received the photo because he quickly deleted it, according to police documents. However, the existence of the photos was not known until an internal whistle blower brought it up at a union meeting and alerted superiors late last month.