Colorado attorney general opens grand jury investigation into Elijah McClain’s death

23-year-old Black man died after a violent encounter with Aurora police in August 2019 while he was walking home from a convenience store

By: - January 8, 2021 12:18 pm
Elijah McClain memorial

A memorial at the site where 23-year-old Elijah McClain was violently detained by Aurora police in August 2019 while he was walking home from a convenience store. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced on Friday that he has opened a grand jury investigation into Elijah McClain’s death.

The 23-year-old Black man died after a violent encounter with Aurora police officers on Aug. 24, 2019, while he was walking home from a convenience store. He was suspected of no crime.

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“The grand jury is an investigative tool that has the power to compel testimony from witnesses and require production of documents and other relevant information that would otherwise be unavailable,” said Weiser in a written statement. “Our investigation will be thorough, guided by the facts and law, and worthy of the public’s trust.”

In his statement, Weiser said that he would not comment further in order to maintain the impartiality and integrity of the process.

Gov. Jared Polis designated Weiser as the state’s special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death in June. Weiser is also charged with a department-wide investigation of the Aurora Police Department to determine if there are serious patterns and practices of excessive force and biased policing present. The investigation is pending.

The three police officers who violently detained McClain in 2019 — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — were cleared of wrongdoing by District Attorney Dave Young in June 2020. Rosenblatt was later fired in July for responding “haha” to a photo he received via text message that showed Aurora police officers reenacting the chokehold used on McClain near the site where he was detained.

There are currently five separate investigations into the Aurora Police Department and the death of McClain. The city of Aurora is conducting two of the investigations. The culmination of one of the investigations, which will evaluate how the police and paramedics conducted McClain’s arrest, is expected to occur sometime in January, according to Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly.

“We are hopeful that the attorney general is truly committed to a thorough and impartial investigation, but there is no doubt that the video itself provides probable cause to believe that Aurora police and medics committed multiple crimes when they killed Elijah McClain,” said Mari Newman, an attorney representing the family of Elijah McClain, in a written statement.

“Prosecutors are not required to use a grand jury and don’t in most cases, so we are forced to question whether this is yet another example of law enforcement being held to a different standard than every other person being investigated for murder,” Newman added. “If the grand jury in Elijah McClain’s case doesn’t indict the officers and medics responsible for killing him, it will be because the attorney general’s office did not want charges to be brought. That would be a grave injustice.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:22 p.m., Jan. 8, 2021, to include remarks from Mari Newman.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a former Colorado Newsline reporter that covered criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and other social issues.

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