DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s governor appointed a special prosecutor Thursday to investigate the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was put into a neck hold by police in suburban Denver last year.
Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order directing state Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate McClain’s death and possibly prosecute those involved. McClain’s name has become a rallying cry during the national reckoning over racism and police brutality following the deaths of George Floyd and others.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said in a statement.
He said he has spoken with McClain’s mother and was moved by her description of her son as a “responsible and curious child … who could inspire the darkest soul.”
Police in suburban Aurora received a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms as he walked down a street on Aug. 24. Police say McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers confronted him and tried to take him into custody.
One of the officers put him in a specialized hold that cuts off blood to the brain, something that has been banned in several places in the wake of Floyd’s death May 25 under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and the global protests that followed.
Paramedics gave McClain a medication to calm him down, and he suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. His family said he sustained a brain injury and was taken off life support.
The attorney general said in a statement that the investigation will be thorough and “worthy of public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
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