Elijah McClain’s Death to Be Investigated Nearly a Year Later. Here’s What You Need to Know
- 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)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.