After 23-year-old Elijah McClain was hospitalized following a brutal encounter with the police which resulted in him suffering a cardiac arrest and leaving him brain dead, his family want answers after he was taken off life support last week.
According to The Denver Post, the confrontation occurred after the Aurora police received a call reporting a suspicious person around Billings Street near East Colfax Avenue wearing a ski mask and waving at people.
In a police news release, it was claimed Elijah refused to comply with orders when officers arrived at the scene, resulting in them having to forcefully restrain him as he fought back.
However, Elijah’s sister, Samara McClain, said he usually wore ski masks when outside because he was suffering from anaemia and had to keep warm.
“This was a case of police brutality of someone so sweet,” she told The Denver Post. “He doesn’t deserve this. He shouldn’t be in a hospital.”
She also added that he was simply going to the store to buy tea for his cousin.
“The next thing you know he was in the hospital,” she said.
A CCTV footage of what transpired before the police were involved shows Elijah, who’s in the ski mask, queuing in the store and waiting to be attended to. Other customers in the video do not appear to be intimated by him.
In an interview with FOX 31 Denver, the store clerk said the mask didn’t make her uncomfortable as she had seen it before.
“I wasn’t nervous because I knew who he was, and when he came in he wasn’t threatening, you know, most people who come in with ski masks are gonna be threatening,” she said. “He wasn’t threatening at all. He was telling everybody hello, he asked everybody how their day was and he said goodbye.”
According to the police news release, the officers who responded to the scene had to call an ambulance and the Aurora Fire Rescue as a result of “level of physical force applied while restraining the subject and his agitated mental state” in the aftermath of the incident. The release also added that he was subsequently given a “standard medication routinely utilized to reduce agitation” by the paramedics.
McClain, who Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz confirmed he wasn’t involved in any criminal act when the call came in, ended up suffering a cardiac arrest when he was being transported to the hospital. The body camera footage of the encounter will be made public after review by prosecutors, Metz added.
Three unnamed officers involved in the violent encounter have also been placed on paid administrative leave pending investigations by the Denver and Aurora police and the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Aurora police spokesman Anthony Camacho said, according to The Denver Post.
“He was a really good person,” Samara told The Denver Post about Elijah, who was a massage therapist and had plans of attending college. “He didn’t argue with anybody. If you tried to argue with him he would just say ‘I love you’ and walk away.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help raise funds for Elijah’s funeral.