Cops Killed Elijah McClain, Busted Up Vigil In His Honor, Took Photos Mocking His Death

Cops Behaving Badly

Last August, 23-year-old Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store — itself a dangerous activity for Black people — when Aurora, Colorado, police officers confronted him because a 911 caller claimed McClain looked “suspicious." He was wearing a ski mask, which is not exclusively crime-related apparel. You can buy ski masks at Walmart not just at Thieves-R-Us. In McClain's case, he suffered from anemia so was frequently cold.

McClain wasn't armed and hadn't committed a crime, but within 15 minutes, the cops had tackled him to the ground and put him in a "carotid" hold that restricts blood flow to the brain (not recommended). Paramedics pumped him with a sedative even though he was handcuffed and kissing pavement. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was later pronounced brain dead. His ski-mask-wearing “crime" spree had ended.

Like George Floyd almost a year later, McClain begged for his life to people professionally conditioned not to give a damn. It's heartbreaking to anyone who didn't trade in their heart for a badge.

I can't breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home. I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don't even kill flies! I don't eat meat! But I don't judge people, I don't judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I'll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I'm a mood Gemini. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. Oh, I'm sorry I wasn't trying to do that. I just can't breathe correctly.

McClain described himself as an “introvert," and although there's no evidence that McClain was on the autism spectrum, parents with children who are have expressed their horror at how the police treated someone who said multiple times that he was “different." Here's the important thing: The police don't give a fuck, and they are trained not to give a fuck. They believe every “criminal" who claims they “can't breathe" is just getting their Meryl Streep on ... for reasons.


From NPR:

Someone picks up a body camera and McClain can be seen lying on his side with both hands restrained behind his back, and one officer jamming his knee on the man's torso.

When McClain attempts to roll over to vomit, they shout at him to "stop fighting us."

"If you keep messing around, I'm going to bring my dog out here and he's going to bite you," says an officer standing over McClain.

McClain proceeds to vomit.

"I can't fix myself," he says weakly.

McClain's body goes limp and he passes out.

Eventually one officer asks, "Are you OK?"

But he's not asking McClain. He's speaking to the officer on top of him.

"Yeah, I'm good," the officer says shifting his weight.

It is painful to consider all these lonely deaths, where Black people either die or lose consciousness for the last time surrounded by stone-cold sociopaths. No mercy is every demonstrated. That's not in the police training, either.

The Aurora Police Department later "found the three officers connected to McClain's death had acted within acceptable policy and training." That's an easy ruling when police are trained to brutalize people and it's official policy to gaslight citizens into thinking cold-blooded murder is an appropriate response to wearing ski masks before Labor Day.

The police argued that McClain demonstrated "incredible, crazy strength." There were at least four cops. McClain was 5 foot 6 and weighed 140 pounds. You shouldn't believe anything these motherfuckers say.

Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered a non-sham investigation into McClain's death, which probably made the cops feel like someone had peed in their milkshakes. This might explain their grotesque behavior, or maybe that's just how they roll normally, but someone should really tell them about this invention called the camera phone.

The police broke up a peaceful vigil in McClain's honor this weekend. Thousands had gathered in Aurora as musicians played the violin in memory of McClain. He'd studied the instrument for years and would often play the violin to help soothe stray cats. Police showed up in riot gear, declared the vigil an “illegal gathering," and threatened to disperse the crowd with pepper spray. They should really come up with a way for citizens to do the whole “peacefully assemble" thing without getting their skulls busted.

Monday, Aurora's interim police chief Vanessa Wilson announced that multiple police officers were put on administrative leave because photos surfaced of them near the site where McClain was killed. It's now a memorial, but the officers weren't paying their respects. They were reportedly photographed "reenacting the carotid restraint" that killed Elijah.

I think I'm done now.

[Washington Post / NPR / Denver Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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