On Tuesday (February 9), the Civil Service Commission of Aurora, Colorado ruled that three police officers will not be getting their jobs back after they mocked the death of Elijah McClain in a photo posted online last year.
Wilson’s actions to terminate the officers marked the first disciplinary action taken against an officer in connection with Elijah’s death.
In August of 2019, police detained Elijah while he was walking home after responding to a 911 call by someone who called him “sketchy.” Elijah, who was 23 years old, was wearing headphones and a ski mask due to a chronic medical condition and didn’t stop for police at first. Officers tackled McClain to the ground and put in him a carotid chokehold, which limits blood flow to the brain.
Emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene injected Elijah with a strong sedative, ketamine. On the way to the hospital, Elijah went into cardiac arrest and died several days later.
The photo that got the officers fired was taken by Marrero and Dittrich and a third officer, Jaron Jones who resigned following the incident, near a memorial for McClain and showed the officers mockingly putting one another in a chokehold. Rosenblatt, who was involved in McClain’s arrest that led to his death, received a text message of the photo from the other officers and reportedly replied “ha ha.”
Wilson commended the commission’s decision to uphold her action taken against the officers, stating that the department’s officers are expected to “serve our community with dignity, respect and a sense of humanity.”
The three officers had tried to appeal their terminations in 2020, but this decision by the Commission closes their case and appeal attempt.
In their findings, the Commission said the photo and the officer’s actions “excerbate[d] the chasm between minorities and police,” the effects of which are still being felt by the department over year after Elijah’s tragic death.
There are currently multiple investigations into Elijah’s death following national attention of his case in the wake of the death of George Floyd by Minnesota police.
In 2019, prosecutors decided not to bring criminal charges related to Elijah’s death, but Colorado Governor Jared Polis launched an investigation last summer. The city of Aurora also launched an independent investigation and the US Justice Department has said it would get involved by investigating potential violations of civil rights.
The city has banned the use of chokeholds and there’s a temporary ban on the use of ketamine by emergency personnel.
Photo: Getty Images