Polis amends order to allow any ‘persons’ involved in McClain case to be prosecuted if necessary

By: - November 12, 2020 2:07 pm

A temporary mural of Elijah McClain painted on a building in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Evans)

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday amended an executive order originally issued in June that designated Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser as the state’s special prosecutor to investigate the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died days after a violent encounter with Aurora police officers in Aug. 2019. McClain was suspected of no crime.

The amendment changes the language in the order to broaden who can be criminally prosecuted in the case. In the original order, Polis directed Weiser to prosecute, if necessary, “any potential criminal activity by law enforcement officers or any other individuals” involved in McClain’s death. The new language replaces “law enforcement officers” with “any persons.” 

“All Coloradans should be safe walking home from the convenience store, or just being in their own neighborhoods listening to headphones,” Polis said in a statement on June 25. “Unfortunately, I know that is not how many people — especially young people of color — feel in our state today, because I’ve heard it from them directly. We need to do a better job, and at a bare minimum they deserve a thorough review of the case.”

In addition to the attorney general’s investigation into McClain’s death, 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 continues and it will be thorough, guided by the facts, and work to build public trust in the criminal justice system,” said Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesperson for Weiser’s office, in a statement. “This is an ongoing investigation and so we cannot comment further.”

In August, the McClain family filed a 106-page federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora, 13 law enforcement officers, one paramedic and one doctor. Two other investigations are still pending, including a federal investigation to determine if Aurora police violated McClain’s constitutional rights and an investigation by the city of Aurora into the Aurora Police Department.

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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.