The police bodycam video, the voluminous police reports and, ultimately, the results of a grand jury investigation and indictment have long evaporated any doubts that Aurora police and firefighters caused the death of Elijah McClain just over four years ago.

Despite that, the police and firefighters charged with McClain’s death will certainly give a passionate argument in their defense as their trials, finally, get underway this week.

Jurors will decide whether former APD officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt committed manslaughter, criminally negligent reckless homicide and other assault charges.

Not on trial this week is the Aurora Police Department.

That trial opened and closed more than a year ago when the state attorney general identified “patterns and practices” exhibited for years by the APD. The department was convicted of police officers systematically abusing people, using excessive force, especially when dealing with people of color.

The Aurora Police department was found guilty and is still working out terms of its parole.

While the employer of Roedema and Rosenblatt were responsible for creating an environment for these two cops to carry out their crimes against McClain, these officers, and others charged, solely bear responsibility for McClain’s death. 

As police critics and proponents have frequently pointed out, the Aurora Police Department is filled with diligent, dedicated police officers who deserve the community’s respect and gratitude — despite working for a department that did virtually nothing to prevent nor discipline officers for the depravity inflicted on McClain.

In fact, after an initial internal investigation, Aurora police determined that the officers accused were justified in how they eventually killed McClain. 

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

Years of investigation from inside and outside the Aurora police department have made it 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, petrified that he was about to be killed.

Incompetent and complicit 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 of the drug for his size. His heart stopped, and he died a few days later.

Despite investigations making clear how the events of that 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 case this week is against two officers who acted inappropriately from the moment they rolled onto the scene and encountered McClain walking home on a summer night, carrying a plastic bag with cans of iced tea he’d walked to the end of the street to buy from a convenience store.

Police were not looking for a crime suspect. No crime had been committed.

A passing motorist called police to say something seemed wrong about McClain because he was wearing a runner’s mask, something he regularly did.

Had Roedema and Rosenblatt have just harassed or only injured McClain while accosting him, it’s nearly certain no one but McClain and his family would ever have known about the patently abusive attack.

But not only was McClain’s treatment by police and firefighters abusive, it was lethal.

And in this case, each officer and medic had multiple opportunities to draw back on the abuse as it unfolded, and each officer and medic chose to escalate the event. They chose to inflict injuries on McClain that ultimately robbed him of his liberty, his dignity and then his life.

The trial starting this week isn’t about errant policing or making mistakes under pressure. It’s about deliberately choosing to be deadly abusive, and the public seeking justice for the crimes individual police and medics committed.

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  1. So many distortions. The language is geared to be inflammatory without any real look at the facts. The initial investigation went the way it did because it was not influenced by an emotional fervor and because the initial investigators understood many facts inconvenient to those who simply want revenge.

    Let us look at a few things. The videos do not show the officers abusing McClain. They show them following their training and getting medical help to the scene as soon as possible while they kept him on his side so he could breathe and in case he vomited. During the struggle, one officer perceives that McClain was reaching for the other officer’s gun. The force used was within their training and within reason. Elijah McClain had done nothing wrong. However, if you are stopped by the police, you are required to provide information as to your identity and an explanation of your actions. If you physically resist attempts to stop you, you commit a crime called “Obstruction”. If he had simply stopped and took a minute to identify himself, he would have been on his way. If we say that anyone has the right to simply resist when the police try to stop them, then we must decide that our laws cannot be enforced. How are the police to know that the person they are stopping is going to react irrationally? They did not pick him out for a stop because he was black. A citizen called who considered him suspicious. You can say that the officers should have gotten more information before stopping him. That is always desirable but more often not possible if you actually want to stop someone before they are gone.

    Let us look at another fact. People who resisted the police were dying from unknown causes long before McClain died. It was called Sudden In Custody death and happened around the country where no choke was used and no excessive force was used. A prolonged struggle was enough. The medical profession has never been able to tell us why they died. In this case, the medical examiner has said that nothing the officers did caused McClain’s death. Did a medical mistake with Ketamine kill McClain? Perhaps. How many medical mistakes resulting in death occur in the US yearly. Many thousands. Are we prosecuting all of those medical people for murder? No, we are prosecuting because we are angry at the death and want revenge.

    Let us look at a few other facts. Police officers are inadequately trained. In the academy, they receive about half of the hours on use of force that they should. There is very poor followup training after that, no matter what the police politicians tell you.

    Now let us look at the idea that officers should be judged just like anyone else when it comes to use of force. The law gives officers the right to use force to enforce the law. As a citizen, you are not forced to go out and physically confront and fight with people on a regular basis. So, we want to throw officers into these situations without adequate training and then sit back and make judgments without the background to understand use of force. The Supreme Court stated that officers should not be judged based upon 20/20 hindsight and should be judged from the viewpoint of a reasonable officer at the scene.

    So, everyone should be judged the same on use of force. If a football player uses what appears to be excessive force in a block or tackle, are we prosecuting them? Referees make calls on these things. Penalties are assessed and things are dealt with through the league internally by people who have some background in judging use of force on the field. If it is clearly excessive to the point of being criminal, a player could be prosecuted. But, players make quick decisions on force on the field constantly. Many fouls are unintentional and are simply the result of the action moving quickly. The other player is moving too. How about a boxer who hits the other boxer hard enough to kill him. Should he be prosecuted. We are sorry because we liked the dead boxer. We want someone punished. Is it just? The players and the boxer put themselves in the position where injuries can occur. Elijah McClain put himself in that position by resisting. We can agree that Elijah was a gentle soul and he had done nothing wrong. It is tragic. It isn’t criminal.

    As. far as the APD being convicted, I think we should look closely at the facts. Attorney General Weiss is a political animal who sees where the popular narrative has gone. He has virtually no criminal law experience. He has no knowledge about use of force. He made racial incidents out of a number of police contacts where there was no indication of racial discrimination other than the fact that people were black. A prosecutor is supposed to deal in facts, not assumptions. Weiss has determined that because the stop and arrest statistics were not racially proportionate, there must be racism. First, other cities, even truth light and beauty Boulder, have more disproportionate statistics. He hasn’t gone after them. But, let us talk about the disproportionate statistics. First, all of the studies have shown that blacks are disproportionately involved in crime. If the police are doing their job, the statistics will be disproportionate. There is no way, in today’s environment, to do good police work and have the statistics be proportionate. Huge flaw in the report by the Attorney General. If we just go by reported crime and assign officers to the high crime areas, we will be setting up disproportionate statistics. No way around it. If we ignore the high crime areas to avoid over policing, we leave the black community at the mercy of gangs and criminals. A real dilemma in our social justice narrative.

    If you watch the television you will see groups of young blacks looting on regular basis. If I arrested them, how many white people would I have to arrest to make the statistics come out right. Should I go into a calm white neighborhood and try to make arrests to get the statistics right? There is a cultural problem in the black community. The leading cause of death for young black males is other young black males. You can dance all you want. The facts are still there and should be becoming obvious to everyone. Uncomfortable fact. We can tout social justice all we want, but we must address the reality and start to deal honestly about it.

    Our politicians try to stay in line with the popular narrative created by the media. The City of Aurora government has made a huge mistake. Instead of disputing the facts proferred by the Attorney General and another faulty investigation, they rolled over. They allowed the City and its officers to be painted as racist. The officers knew better. They know that they have no support. Why would you want to work in that environment? The City paid out millions to have the department monitored by a well paid consultant. What a waste of money. The officers know that is is window dressing and mostly a paperwork drill. They can’t speak out and they know that their police politician chief won’t. Further, the City now must pay out every time some black suspect makes a complaint. Hey, it has been agreed to by the City that the officers are racist. The City recently paid out $850,000 to a felony suspect who resisted arrest and tried to take the officer’s gun. The investigation into that case and the rush to judgment against the officers are criminal in themselves. I have reviewed the case and the investigation was incredibly poor as well as dishonest.

    So, I can’t agree with much that the Sentinel says other than the fact that McClain’s death was a tragedy. The police have learned a lesson. They have no support. they should not stop suspicious persons because they may resist. They will respond after the shootings. The recent death of the teenager involved in the robbery have further cemented the fact that officers should not take action. Any death that does not fit the popular narrative is cause for revenge. The public will suffer, but it seems to be what they want.

    1. There is no obligation to provide any information to police, especially if there is no reasonable cause for why they are questioning you. Your silence is constitutionally protected.

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