AURORA, Colo. — Multiple suburban Denver police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave amid an investigation into photos of them related to the case of a Black man who died last summer after he was stopped and restrained, police said Monday.
The interim police chief of the city of Aurora, Vanessa Wilson, said in a statement that the suspended officers were “depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died.” But her statement did not provide more details about what the images show.
The two photos were taken near the place where police stopped McClain, 23, on Aug. 24, 2019 as they responded to a report of a suspicious person walking down the street wearing a face mask, said Officer Matthew Longshore, an Aurora police spokesperson. The pictures were not taken during the fatal encounter, Longshore said.
McClain’s death and previously released body camera video from the case generated renewed attention after the case of George Floyd emerged and prompted worldwide protests. Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes even after he said he could not breathe.
Aurora police have said McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers tried to take him into custody. The officers used a choke hold that cuts off blood to the brain — a tactic recently banned in several places following Floyd’s death.
Paramedics administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm McClain down, police have said. In less than a week, McClain, a a massage therapist, suffered cardiac arrest, was declared brain dead and taken off life support.
The photos that emerged were reported by an officer to the department’s internal affairs division on Thursday. Wilson said she learned of the investigation that day and ordered department investigators to make it their top priority.
The investigation was completed Monday evening and the results, including the photos, will be made public after high-ranking police officials review it and Wilson makes a decision on how to respond, Longshore said. The chief’s decision could be appealed by the officers under investigation, which would delay the results being made public, he said.
The three officers involved in stopping McClain did not face any criminal charges after an investigation by the district attorney but last week Democratic Gov. Jared Polis asked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to re-investigate and possibly prosecute the officers.