Three Colorado police officers were fired after they were connected to a picture making fun of Elijah McClain’s death.
Aurora Police Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson announced the terminations on Friday. The officers were identified as Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich and Jason Rosenblatt. Jaron Jones, another officer involved in the incident, resigned.
The firings occurred after another officer reported a photo of Jones, Marrero and Dittrich that was taken at the site of McClain’s death. The photo showed the trio smiling as Jones jokingly placed Dittrich in a headlock, a recreation of the hold used on McClain. The picture was taken on October 20, 2019.
McClain died on Aug. 30, 2019, six days after he was stopped by Aurora Police officers while he was walking home from a convenience store. Authorities said the police were called because someone reported a suspicious man “acting weird” by “waving his arms around.” McClain was wearing a ski mask at the time because he was anemic and got cold easily. Aurora Police said McClain refused to halt when he was ordered stop walking and resisted arrest so they placed him in “carotid control hold.” The move cut off circulation on the side of his neck, and he briefly passed out.
The 140 lb McClain would continue to struggle with the officers for some 15 more minutes, sobbing and pleading to be let go. After emergency responders arrived on the scene, McClain was injected with a sedative before he was taken to the hospital. McClain went into cardiac arrest and was rendered brain dead before his family took him off life support.
The photo of Jones, Dittrich and Marrero was sent to several other officers, including Rosenblatt. The police chief said the photo was allegedly sent to “cheer up a friend,” who was not identified. Rosenblatt, who was involved in McClain’s arrest, responded “haha” via text. Although Rosenblatt was not in the picture, he was fired because of his response and his failure to report its existence. Nathan Woodyard, the officer who used the hold, also received the photos but he did not respond and was not disciplined.
“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson told reporters. She noted the picture was not illegal but considered it “a crime against humanity and decency.”
The firings were not cause for celebration to McClain’s family and supporters, who noted the irony of the quick discipline against the officers.
“Rosenblatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for murdering Elijah, but for making fun of Elijah,” Terrence Roberts, activist and McClain family friend said during a rally. “That is the culture that we’re fighting, where a police officer can murder a Black man, a Black child, and keep his job and stay on the force so he can go make fun of this child.”
By late June, as public outcry about McClain’s death took on renewed vigor in the wake of the recent national movement to end police brutality and racial injustice, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate the case and determine whether charges against the officers Involved are warranted.