Aurora, Colo., officers involved in death of Elijah McClain reassigned

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June 27 (UPI) -- Three Colorado police officers involved in incident that left Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man, dead last year have been reassigned for their safety, officials said.

Aurora officials said Friday that two of the officers involved, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, were moved to desk duty June 13 and the third officer, Randy Roedema, was reassigned last week.

The reassignments were "done in an effort to protect those officers," the Aurora Police Department said.

Aurora Police Department spokeswoman Faith Goodrich said that various police and city employees have recently received threats as the case received renewed scrutiny after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

McClain was taken off life support on Aug. 30, six days after police confronted him in response to a call reporting a suspicious person in the area. McClain was walking along the street wearing a ski mask, which his family said he often wore outside due to anemia.

McClain, who was unarmed, initially refused to stop when police approached him. Bodycam video shows him telling officers he was trying to stop his music to listen to them.

Officers tackled him and pinned him to the ground using a "carotid control hold," as McClain said he was unable to breathe and vomited multiple times.

Medical responders injected him with sedative ketamine. He suffered cardiac arrest while being transported to the hospital. Authorities said "life saving measures were initiated."

He was declared brain dead three days later and taken off life support three days after that.

The coroner said McClain's death was due to "undetermined causes," and didn't rule out whether the police chokehold or sedative ketamine were contributing factors to his death.

A force review board concluded that "officers had a lawful reason to contact Mr. McClain," and the force applied was "within policy and consistent with training," an Aurora police blog from February shows.

The police killing of Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man, on Memorial Day in Minneapolis and Taylor, an unarmed black woman, who was fatally shot in March by police in Louisville, has sparked ongoing Black Lives Matter protests.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday designated Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser as special prosecutor in the case.

"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.

District Attorney Dave Young, reiterated his prior determination that the evidence of the case "does not support the filing of homicide."

"Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain's death could have been avoided, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but rather, on evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law," Young said.

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