June 26 (UPI) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday designated the state’s attorney general to investigate the police-involved killing of 23-year-old Elijah McClain last year.
Polis designated Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor in the case, granting him the authority to criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions contributed to McClain’s death.
“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.
Aurora police responded to a call about a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask and waving his arms while walking along a street on Aug. 24, when they encountered McClain, a black man whose family has since said he often wore masks while outside due to anemia.
McClain, who was unarmed, initially refused to stop when police approached him, at which point officers tackled him and pinned him to the ground using a “carotid control hold.”
While on the ground, McClain pleaded with officers to stop, saying he was unable to breathe and vomiting multiple times.
Medical responders at the scene then injected McClain with the heavy sedative ketamine. He entered cardiac arrest while being transported to a local hospital in an ambulance. He was declared brain dead days later and died.
Also Thursday, District Attorney Dave Young, who is handling McClain’s case 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.
National interest in McClain’s death has increased following national protests sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.