EDITORIAL: Elijah McClain evidence is clear, a grand jury can see crimes that police, prosecutors cannot

717
Thousands gathered, June 27, 2020 at the Aurora Municipal Complex, to protest and pay tribute to Elijah McClain, who died last year after an encounter with three officers from the Aurora Police Department.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Any doubts about the end of total police absolution for any gaffe or crime committed evaporated Wednesday when a state grand jury delivered homicide indictments against the Aurora cops and medics who caused the death of Elijah McClain.

The 32-count indictment handed down to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser comes two years after Aurora police wrongly accosted McClain while he was walking home at night from a convenience store.

After years of investigation from inside and outside the Aurora police department, it became clear that McClain was targeted and tortured by police because he was a young Black man in a poor neighborhood. Despite doing nothing wrong nor illegal, police pounced on McClain, attacked him as they tried to wrongly subdue him and choked him into unconsciousness as he struggled, fearing he was about to be killed. Incompetent fire department medics then injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful tranquilizer, even after he’d been subdued with a chokehold and fainted. Misjudging his weight, they injected McClain with too much ketamine for his size. His heart stopped and he died a few days later.

Despite investigations making clear how the events of night led to and caused McClain’s death, neither the Aurora police department nor the 17th Judicial District Attorney found evidence that a crime had been committed and warranted prosecution, or even discipline.

The Sentinel and many others have argued for years now that the stunning lack of independent oversight and investigation into incidents like the McClain death directly result in police being exonerated in all but the most egregious and heinous acts of police brutality and malfeasance.

The connection between local criminal justice systems and police have long compounded state laws skewed at covering police for any and all crimes committed in the line of duty.

For McClain, it took only a slice of the community to weigh existing and possibly new evidence and determine the obvious, which escaped police and prosecutors previously: The officers and medics involved wrongly accosted, injured and killed McClain two years ago.

For decades, police in Aurora and across the metro area have never even been charged with obvious crimes because local district attorneys have consistently said they could not prosecute or win a case against a cop, including those who killed McClain.

Weiser and a state grand jury find otherwise.

The development immediately begs the question as to how many other cases brought before the 17th and 18th judicial district attorneys involving police malfeasance were wrongly dismissed by the taint of unequivocal police dispensation.

For the sake of real justice, and not justice for show, as has so often been the norm among district attorneys in Aurora’s two judicial districts, the state should review other relatively recent incidents of police brutality and malfeasance to determine if an impartial and independent grand jury could see what elected prosecutors chose not to.

In the case of McClain, trials seeking justice for his death will take place in a state where codified, absolute immunity has been dissolved because of its abuse. The trial will take place in a state that now makes it a crime for fellow officers to stand by and watch the abuse inflicted upon McClain and do or say nothing. The trial of those who killed McClain will take place when the Aurora police department has owned up to its past and worked diligently to prevent other officers from wrongly inflicting death or injury on others.

Sadly, the trial takes place where some misguided police and equally misguided proponents continue to suffer from past delusions.

“Our officers did nothing wrong,” The Aurora Police Association, union for Aurora police, said in a statement following the grand jury announcement. “There is no evidence that APD officers caused his death. The hysterical overreaction to this case has severely damaged the police department. Inevitably, the public are the ones who’ve paid the price.”

While some Aurora leaders and officials at the Aurora Police Department have shown a great deal of foresight and courage in critically needed reforms, today’s stunning indictments and recent police reforms are tempered by attitudes like that of the Aurora Police Association.

There is still much work to be done.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Don Black
Don Black
24 days ago

As tragic as Elijah McClain’s death was, it does not justify disregarding all the legal guidelines that exists in the justice system. I can understand emotional citizens deciding to indict the fire and police people involved. A court has to look at proof beyond a reasonable doubt. No one knows what killed Elijah McClain. In the past, there have been many suspects who died after struggles with police officers when no choke hold or excessive means were used. There was a term for it. It was called “Sudden In Custody Death” and coroners could not explain the cause. There are hundreds of thousands of deaths annually caused by medical mistakes or malfeasance. I don’t see the public outcry to prosecute our medical professionals. When that does occur, medical people will leave the profession in droves. How about we prosecute the medical people who treated Elijah McClain. Aren’t they guilty too? This case and others, coupled with the knee jerk bills passed by our legislature have had a chilling effect on law enforcement. There are only two choices for officers now. Do nothing or leave law enforcement. It will take another year or two for a court to decide that proof beyond a reasonable doubt dies not exist. For now the hysterical crowd is placated. The author of this article uses highly charged and inaccurate language to stir up anger. The end result of unreasonable attacks on the police will simply be an end to law enforcement as it was meant to be and a decline in the safety for all citizens. I am afraid there is no middle ground. The demands on the side of the activists and the author are unreasonable. The happy talk from the Chief of police doesn’t change the attack on any reasonable manner of policing. This is the reason the police have always resisted citizen review boards. Their fears have now been proven true by the passage of vague, indecipherable guidelines by the legislature and fantastical guideline demands by the activists.
There has always been a need for improvements in law enforcement.
Professional police officers and trainers have fought for years for improvements in training and supervision. The city governments have kept the public from hearing about those efforts and have supported the police politicians who talked nice to the public while ignoring the needs for improvements. Now, those same police politicians are allowing law enforcement to be destroyed to protect their own sorry careers. Why would I want to be a police officer knowing that I have no support and a mob wants my head? Maybe for the money or knowing I will have a job where I do almost nothing except respond to exciting shootings daily. How can you have community policing when the community just wants your head and you are afraid to stop anyone if the the public calls? The public will soon understand that is useless to call the police and that they are on their own. The fantasy solutions offered by the activists will slow law enforcement to a standstill. None of this can be solved without some realism entering the picture. I don’t see that fitting the narrative.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
23 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

I don’t see you offering any “realism” in your comments. It seems more like victim blame to me. I like the way you worked your politics into the situation, however, thereby assuring nothing will improve.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
23 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

Ah, the smell of pork is heavy with this one. (Both financially and personally)

DICK MOORE
23 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

AMEN!

Joseph Gavinski
Joseph Gavinski
23 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

I suspect this author has an association with the police and or fire unions. An apologist. The police union is delusional based on its statements.

Avoiding Racial Harrassment
Avoiding Racial Harrassment
22 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

Grand Juries do not deal in narratives. They deal in facts and evidence. It is police officers, and their blind supporter activists, who do not believe in law and order. Activists believe that police should not be held responsible for anything. They get their way 99.9% of the time by using thuggery and threats.

These activists spin tales of a potentially lawless society in an attempt to extort absolute compliance from the public.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
23 days ago

Grand juries generally don’t have ulterior motives.

DICK MOORE
23 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

How about this for a motive. The Grand Jury knows that if it says there is no cause for any convictions there will be a political and local National outcry from protesters.

So, the Grand Jury takes a non stand to the facts and pushes it forward to the courts to decide allowing them to disband and go home.

The ulterior motive is all about the politics.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
23 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Complete BS

Joseph Gavinski
Joseph Gavinski
23 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

Yup. That is pure bs.

DICK MOORE
22 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

Whose to say it’s BS, Good Citizen, you?

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
19 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Absolutely. Like many members of the public, I can spot someone that lives off the public teat like yourself. You don’t want to be held accountable. That would eliminate your rice bowl.

Avoiding Racial Harrassment
Avoiding Racial Harrassment
22 days ago

The Grand Jury has it right. PERIOD. Complain all you like. Commit a crime and you get prosecuted. Get a defense attorney and go to trial. That is how our system works. There is no special carve out for police or paramedics.

What’s the big deal? Lots of people get charged with crimes every day even when they, or their supporters, think they are innocent. The courts and jails and prisons are full of these types of people who believe in their own lack of guilt. They have every right to protest. However, these people got the benefit of a grand jury meaning they did not just get charged like everyone else. Extra time and money went into making sure that the evidence was strong enough to go to trial in the first place. They got an additional layer of possible protection.

Police unions and sycophants would have you believe that a badge and gun given out after 16 weeks of training is a magical key that makes the holder forever innocent and protected from accountability. They used to gaslight the public with that crazy idea.

Many are still under that spell of illogic and stupidity that says police are free to harm the public they are duty-bound to protect. Falling back on a tide of “we don’t know …” does not wash away common sense and science. Police are people employed by the state and they need to do their jobs correctly because my taxes pay them to do so. When they fail, they will face the same fate as any other citizen.

What’s the big deal with handing out consequences?

Do some believe that police are so stupid and irresponsible that they cannot control themselves from breaking the law and should be shielded from accountability? Do some believe we lose “good” officers because they know they will get in trouble for abusing their authority?

A jury of their peers will decide these people’s fate just like millions of others throughout our country’s history have had happen to them. If these public servants are not guilty they will be adjudicated as such. The evidence will tell the tale.

What’s the big deal?