- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced he was launching an investigation into the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was killed in police custody in August 2019.
- The move comes amid intense pressure for McClain’s case to be reopened as his story has spread on social media and gained national attention in recent days.
- Police were called on McClain as he was walking home listening to music and wearing a ski mask, which he wore because he had anemia and was easily made cold. A man driving by told police he thought McClain was “sketchy.”
- Police confronted McClain and placed him in a chokehold before medics arrived and injected with ketamine. He suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital and died a week later after his family removed him from life support.
- Three officers involved in McClains death were placed on administrative leave and eventually cleared by the police department, which found that they had used appropriate levels of force and responded in accordance with their training.
Nearly a year after the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was killed in police custody, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed a special prosecutor Thursday to investigate the case following massive public outcry.
On the evening of Aug. 24, 2019, McClain was listening to music while walking home from a local shop in Aurora, Colorado. He wore a ski mask and was listening to music on headphones.
McClain’s family later said he often wore a ski mask because he had anemia and became cold easily. A man driving down the same street saw McClain and called the police and told them to come.
“He has a full-on mask on,” the man said, according to audio of the call uploaded by the Aurora Police Department. “I just turned around and he’s like, putting his hands up.”
“He looks sketchy. He might be a good person or a bad person.”
At least four officers responded to the scene. Body camera footage shows that they got out of their cars and called for McClain to stop walking. It is unclear if he heard them, and after some confused exchanges, he stopped.
Officers are then seen blocking McClain’s path before reaching out to grab him.
“I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain said, recoiling from the officers. “You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen. Let go of me.”
“Relax or I’m going to have to change this situation,” one officer says. Police later said he had resisted them.
Struggle Ensues Absent Body Camera Footage
From there, a struggle ensues, and the officers place McClain in a chokehold. However, at this point, the body camera footage becomes jumbled. Police said their cameras came off during the scuffle.
In the audio from the cameras, McClain can be heard crying, repeatedly saying “it hurts,” and begging the officers to stop. At one point he says “I can’t breathe.”
While McClain remained in the chokehold, the other officers could be heard talking in the background, largely ignoring him. At one point, one of them told another to move his camera.
Then, one of the police claims McClain tried to reach for another officer’s gun. There are more sounds of struggling. Someone picks up a camera and McClain is seen on his side with his hands behind his back and an officer’s knee in his torso.
McClain tries to roll over to vomit and the police yell at him to stop fighting.
“If you keep messing around, I’m going to bring my dog out here and he’s going to bite you,” one of them says.
McClain vomits and passes out.
Aurora Fire Rescue arrived on the scene later, and a fire medic injected McClain with ketamine to sedate him. The officers told the medic they believed he was on drugs.
“Whatever he’s on, he has incredible strength,” one of them said. McClain’s autopsy later revealed that he only had marijuana in his system, which is legal in Colorado.
McClain suffered a heart attack during the ambulance ride to the hospital. Three days later, he was declared brain dead. He died on Aug. 30 after his family took him off life support.
No Criminal Charges
In early November, the Adams County Coroner’s Office concluded that McClain’s autopsy showed he died from “undetermined causes.”
“The decedent was violently struggling with officers who were attempting to restrain him. Most likely the decedent’s physical exertion contributed to death,” the autopsy report said. “It is unclear if the officers’ actions contributed as well.”
Shortly after that, the district attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges.
Three officers involved in McClain’s death — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema — were placed on administrative leave for around three months. In February, all three were cleared of wrongdoing by the Aurora Police Department.
The department determined that the officers had used an appropriate level of force that was consistent with their training.
Gov. Polis Reopens Case
In recent weeks, McClain’s case has been brought into the public eye as a focal point in the grassroots movement against systemic racism and police violence.
In early June, several protests took place in Colorado calling for his case to be reopened. Shortly after, three members of Aurora’s city council asked the city manager to open an independent investigation.
Over the last week, McClain’s story has been shared widely on social media platforms and garnered national media attention, prompting intensified calls for his death to be investigated. State and local officials said they have received thousands of calls and emails, and a petition circulating online gained over three million signatures.
In a statement Thursday, Polis announced that he had signed an executive order designating Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate the case and decide if the facts supported criminal prosecution.
“I was moved by speaking with Elijah’s mother and her description of her son as a responsible and curious child who became a vegetarian to be healthier, and who could inspire the darkest soul,” he said in the statement.
“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.”
In the executive order, Polis noted that it was an incredibly rare move for the state to disregard a district attorney’s decision to not pursue criminal charges, but argued it was necessary as the previous investigations left out relevant details.
“This, however, is the truly exceptional case where widely reported facts are not addressed in any current investigation,” he wrote. “These omissions merit a supplemental evaluation of the case by an independent prosecutor and thus warrant this Executive Order.”
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Denver Post) (Al Jazeera)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.