Three Aurora, Colo., police officers linked to the August 2019 death of 23-year-old black man Elijah McClain have been reassigned to “non-enforcement” roles as the case faces a new investigation, according to reports.
Officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema now have duties that don’t involve direct contact with the public, such as administrative duties or paperwork, FOX 31 of Denver reported. Woodyard and Rosenblatt were reassigned June 13, while Roedema received a new role June 20, the station reported.
Concern for the officers’ safety was a consideration in the moves, an Aurora Police Department spokesman told the station. Various police officers and city officials have faced death threats in recent weeks in connection with the McClain case, the police spokesman said.
On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order directing the state’s attorney general to investigate and possibly prosecute the officers, who were previously cleared of wrongdoing in the death of McClain.
“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 Thursday.
On Friday, the lawyer for McClain's family said she and the family members have been conducting their own investigation into the police officers' actions. Mari Newman told The Associated Press she is suspicious of government investigations of cases of alleged police misconduct.
“After over two decades of doing this work, my experience is that families cannot rely on the government to police itself," Newman said. "And so my work is to continue to seek justice through the civil justice system so we’re doing our own investigation and preparing a civil rights lawsuit.”
Newman declined to provide details about her investigation.
Since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 – resulting in firings and criminal charges against four officers, and sparking protests and rioting across the country over police brutality claims -- other cases across the U.S. in which black people interacted with police officers, sometimes leading to deaths, have been receiving new scrutiny.
Police in Aurora responded to a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms as he walked down a street on Aug. 24.
Police body-camera video shows an officer getting out of his car, approaching McClain and saying, “Stop right there. Stop. Stop. ... I have a right to stop you because you’re being suspicious.”
Police say McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers confronted him and tried to take him into custody.
In the video, the officer turns McClain around and repeats, “Stop tensing up.”
As McClain tries to escape the officer’s grip, the officer says, “Relax, or I’m going to have to change this situation.”
As other officers join to restrain McClain, he begs them to let go and says, “You guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen.”
One of the officers put him in a chokehold that cuts off blood to the brain, something that has been banned in several places in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minnesota.
In the video, McClain tells officers: “Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.” Those words have appeared on scores of social media posts demanding justice for McClain.
He was on the ground for 15 minutes as several officers and paramedics stood by. Paramedics gave him 500 milligrams of the sedative ketamine to calm him down, and he suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. McClain was declared brain dead Aug. 27 and was taken off life support three days later.
A forensic pathologist could not determine what exactly led to his death but said physical exertion during the confrontation likely contributed.
The police department put the three officers on leave at the time, but they returned to the force when District Attorney Dave Young said there was insufficient evidence to support charging them.
Fox News’ Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.