Three white officers have been fired over photos showing a reenactment of the chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a Black man who later died of cardiac arrest. One officer replied "haha" to the photo.
Three white police officers have been fired over photos that showed a reenactment of a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a Black man who died of cardiac arrest last year in the US state of Colorado. One of the officers was present when McClain was apprehended in August 2019.
Two other officers who were on the scene, including the one who put McClain in a chokehold, are still on the police force. Last year, prosecutors declined to charge the three white officers who were involved in detaining McClain. After public outcry, the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, said the state would reopen the case.
Police officers, including Aurora Officer Jason Rosenblatt, stopped McClain for "being suspicious" after a 911 call on August 24 reported him as looking "sketchy", the caller added that no one appeared to be in danger. According to police body-camera video, McClain repeatedly begged the officers to let him go. He was placed in a chokehold, cutting off blood to his brain. Later, paramedics administered a sedative to calm him, but he suffered cardiac arrest and was later declared brain dead and taken off life support.
Two months after the incident, Rosenblatt received photos in which three other officers mimicked the chokehold at the spot officers choked McClain, which had become a public memorial.
Rosenblatt replied "haha" to the message.
'A crime against humanity and decency'
Rosenblatt and two officers who appeared in the photos have been fired from the Aurora Police Department. The third officer involved in the photos resigned earlier this week.
"We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry," Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said. She added that the officers may not have committed a crime, but the images were "a crime against humanity and decency."
She also decried the explanation that the officers were "trying to cheer up a friend by sending that photo."
The police union said the investigation into the photos was rushed.
McClain's death became a rallying cry against police brutality in the United States. More calls for the prosecution of police officers involved in deadly encounters with citizens, particularly Black men, have been made following the death of George Floyd, who died after being held in a chokehold for nearly nine minutes by police in Minnesota in May. Floyd's death sparked protests against police brutality across the United State and around the world.
see/sms (AP, Reuters)