AURORA, Colo. — One year ago, on Aug. 24, 2019, Aurora Police Department (APD) officers stopped Elijah McClain while he was walking home from a convenience store where he'd gone to pick up a drink.
The officers threw him to the ground and put him into a carotid hold, while paramedics administered 500 mg of ketamine to sedate him.
Three days later, on Aug. 27, he died at a hospital of undetermined causes, according to the Adams County Coroner's Office.
The 23-year-old's death has now made international news as Black Lives Matter protesters across the United States have called for justice for McClain. The officers involved in his death were cleared of wrongdoing this year. There are now multiple investigations into the incident.
Here's a look at the timeline from the events of Aug. 24, 2019, through now:
Aug. 24, 2019
At 10:32 p.m., APD received a call of a "suspicious person" wearing a face mask and waving his arms on Billings Street near East Colfax Avenue. McClain had committed no crime. His family said he often wore the mask when it was cold out because he was anemic. Body camera footage shows the confrontation escalate from officers yelling, "Stop!", to McClain being thrown onto the ground. One officer is heard shouting that McClain was reaching for a gun, but body camera footage doesn't definitively show him doing so. Officers used a now-banned carotid hold to restrain McClain. The district attorney said McClain lost consciousness but regained it and was heard in body camera footage saying, "My name is Elijah McClain ... I was just going home." Paramedics administered ketamine to sedate him, and officers were told he had no pulse in the back of an ambulance and needed CPR.
Aug. 27, 2019
Three days after arriving at the hospital, McClain was declared brain dead. This is the date of death listed in the Adams County coroner's report.
Aug. 30, 2019
McClain was taken off life support. He was an organ donor, according to the coroner's report.
Sept. 1, 2019
McClain's family called for a fully independent investigation. The lawyer for the family also demanded APD release the entire record, including the 911 call, dispatch transmissions and all video, and to prosecute those responsible. APD said that a team comprised of members from the Denver Police Department, Aurora Police Department and the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office were investigating.
Nov. 7, 2019
The autopsy report was completed and said he died of undetermined causes. "Intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery contributed to death," the report says, adding that the coroner couldn't rule out the ketamine administered by paramedics or the carotid hold that officers put him as factors in his death.
Nov. 22, 2019
APD announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers involved in McClain's death, per the determination of 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young. The next day, McClain's family and friends held a news conference to demand justice and protest the district attorney's decision.
Feb. 6, 2020
APD said that the force officers applied during the altercation that resulted in McClain's death was within policy and consistent with training as determined by a Force Review Board (FRB). The same day, Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said he was initiating a Critical Incident Review of how the Aurora police and fire departments responded in the McClain case. He also launched an official audit of APD's body-worn cameras to "take a critical look at our policies, how well APD complies with policies, laws and best practices related to the use of body-worn cameras, as well as the equipment itself."
June 2, 2020
McClain's mother spoke at a rally at the Capitol in support of a bill in the Colorado state legislature that would create a special investigations unit within the Colorado Attorney General's Office to investigate "the actions or inaction of a peace officer who may have contributed to a person's death or serious bodily injury," according to a draft version of the bill.
June 9, 2020
APD made changes to its policies, including that it would no longer authorize the use of carotid holds such as the one officers used on McClain. Also that day, Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said attorney Eric Daigle, a former police officer in Connecticut, had been examining the case as an independent investigator. Twombly removed Daigle from the investigation due to concerns he would not be unbiased.
June 23, 2020
The public pushed for reform as a nationwide Change.org petition asking for an independent investigation into McClain's death and that the officers involved be held accountable gathered millions of signatures. Also the district attorney's office, which cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, received more than 10,000 emails and 1,000 voicemails regarding the McClain case over a three-week period.
June 25, 2020
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order to have the Colorado attorney general investigate McClain's death. If AG Phil Weiser's investigation finds the facts support prosecution, Polis said he will criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions caused McClain's death.
June 26, 2020
APD confirmed the three officers involved in the arrest of McClain had been taken off the streets and moved to other duties. Officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt were taken off the streets on June 13, and Officer Randy Roedema was moved June 20. All three officers were working in a “non-enforcement” capacity, APD said.
June 27, 2020
Thousands of people demonstrating for justice for McClain marched from Aurora Municipal Center and onto Interstate 225, forcing a closure of the interstate. Hours later, a small group of people at the Municipal Center threw rocks and bottles at APD officers. Officers declared the gathering unlawful and used pepper spray. Two people were taken into custody. A violin vigil also happened that evening as a peaceful night of remembrance on the Aurora Municipal Center Great Lawn.
June 29, 2020
9Wants to Know found that three Aurora police officers allegedly snapped photos while they put one another in choke holds the previous October at the location where McClain got into a fatal struggle with officers. The incident wasn't reported internally until June, when an officer told administrators about the pictures. Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she was "deeply concerned."
June 30, 2020
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Denver Division of the FBI announced they had been looking into McClain's death. In a joint statement, the agencies said they began reviewing the facts in the McClain case for a potential federal civil rights investigation in 2019.
Also on that day, at a special Aurora City Council meeting, Wilson defended APD's use of force against what she called a small group of "agitators" that showed up to protest McClain's death the weekend before. Wilson also apologized for the chaos that ensued after police dressed in riot gear and surrounded people participating in a violin vigil for McClain.
July 3, 2020
APD fired two of the three officers who took photographs the previous October depicting a choke hold in front of the memorial for McClain. A third officer was fired for his response to the photos that he received in a text message, and another officer involved resigned before his punishment could be handed down. Wilson said she was "sickened" and offered an apology to McClain's family, friends and the community over the incident.
That evening, thousands of protesters surrounded an APD precinct for hours, and group organizers said they would stay there until the two still-employed officers involved in McClain's death were fired. Officers used at least five 40mm less-lethal foam rounds when protesters shot mortar-style fireworks toward officers and began to untie the west gate of the precinct. Two arrests were made. By 5 a.m. the next day, few protesters remained.
July 6, 2020
The Aurora City Council decided the city's independent investigation into McClain's death would be done by a panel instead of one person. The team won't determine whether officers should face charges, but will instead review if police officers or firefighters broke department policies and what changes might be needed.
July 9, 2020
Three APD officers who were fired the previous week after a photo came to light of two of them posing in a choke hold at the site of the memorial for McClain appealed in an effort to get their jobs back. Officers Kyle Dittrich and Erica Marrero, who were in the photo, filed appeals July 8, according to a spokesperson for the city. On July 9, the city spokesperson said they also received an appeal of termination from Jason Rosenblatt, who responded to a text of the photos with "HaHa." Rosenblatt was one of the three officers who responded the night of McClain’s death.
July 20, 2020
The Aurora City Council officially approved the independent investigation into McClain's death.
July 22, 2020
Rosenblatt, one of several Aurora officers involved in a photo scandal near the McClain memorial, sued the department's interim police chief and city manager after being denied an Independent Review Board (IRB) prior to being terminated.
July 23, 2020
News broke that a lawsuit was filed against the City of Aurora and its interim police chief regarding the treatment of protesters at a violin vigil event June 27 honoring the life of McClain. According to the lawsuit, officers directed a "coordinated force" of officers from multiple agencies to "march toward the peaceful crowd in a totally unjustified show of intimidation." Aurora City Attorney Daniel Brotzman responded by saying the city hadn't been served the lawsuit yet.
July 25, 2020
Two protesters were shot and injured by another protester as thousands of people marching for justice in McClain's death were on I-225, forcing a closure of the interstate. A Jeep barreled down the highway as protesters scrambled to get out of the way. The Jeep didn't hit anyone, but a protester fired shots at the Jeep and hit two protesters. The suspect, Samuel Young, 23, was arrested days later on four counts of attempted homicide and two counts of assault.
Hours later, the group returned to APD headquarters and some people tore the fence surrounding the complex, prompting APD to declare the protest an "unlawful assembly." People threw objects, shined lasers and shot fireworks at officers. They broke windows to the courthouses and started a fire in an office, APD said. Police said no one was arrested during the protests and that officers did not use any less-lethal weapons.
July 28, 2020
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) opened an investigation into the administration of ketamine. A CDPHE spokesperson said the department received "numerous complaints" and "additional information" about the drug's use in June of this year.
Aug. 11, 2020
McClain's family members filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Aug. 22, 2020
CDPHE announced that a review committee would examine the state's ketamine waiver program. CDPHE said the committee would consist of EMS providers, ER doctors, anesthesiologists and others. It would examine the safety of ketamine administration in an EMS setting.
Aug. 23, 2020
A "Gathering and Grace" music celebration was held in Denver for McClain, nearly one year after the 23-year-old's death. The event was held at Montbello Recreation Center in Denver with the approval of McClain's family. McClain’s family wants to use the day, a year since his death, to show gratitude for the change he is still creating. "It feels like it’s been a decade some days," said Candice Bailey, a friend of the McClains. "We have focused so much on what happened to Elijah that we are not focusing on the human being that Elijah really was."
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