One of the officers connected to Elijah McClain’s death has been rehired to the Aurora police force. While a police spokesperson said the reinstatement is in alignment with city protocol for the agency, McClain’s mother continues to protest, saying the rehiring of any of those involved with her son’s death is disrespectful.
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, city hiring documents stated Matthew Green, an officer on location at the incident that caused McClain’s death but not charged criminally, was hired back to the Aurora Police Department that day to the rank of patrol officer, the Sentinel Colorado reports.
McClain’s mother Sheneen McClain took issue with the move, saying, “In my opinion, everyone that was there that night and did nothing to help my son stay alive are all accessories to my son’s murder.”
An independent investigation discovered on that August night in 2019, Green and other officers arrived at the scene of the incident after McClain had been wrestled to the ground, restrained, and handcuffed by the arresting officers.
Green, then a K-9 patrol officer, threatened to unleash a police dog on the 23-year-old Black man if he did not comply. Video camera captured him saying to McClain, a young man on the autism spectrum, “Dude, if you keep messing around, I’m gonna bring my dog out; he’s gonna dog-bite you, you understand me? Keep messing around.”
When addressing Green directly, Sheneen McClain said, “He’s an assh-le for taking on the slave mentality of telling a person of color they’re going to be attacked by a police dog.”
Green also restrained McClain relieving officer Jason Rosenblatt and holding down the young man’s legs.
The young man was also placed in a chokehold. APD officers Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema, and Nathan Woodyard were the initial officers on the scene and initiated the altercation. They were later joined by paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper, who were determined to have injected McClain with an overdose of the sedative drug ketamine while he was still handcuffed and restrained on the ground, causing him to go into cardiac arrest.
All five are indicted on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and, after their not guilty pleas in court on Jan. 20, are due for arraignment on Jan. 27 in court in Adams County, Colorado.
Three days later, McClain was removed from life support and declared dead.
Though never criminally charged for McClain’s death, he was named in a 2020 federal lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents. This complaint would be settled in 2021 for $15 million after conversations of police reform and excessive force — sparked by the deaths of McClain, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more — dominated the airwaves.
At the time, then-chief Nick Metz issued a “formal reprimand” to the cop and said, “good officer who made a mistake.”
Two years after the news of the arrest and McClain’s subsequent death started to make national headlines, Green left the APD voluntarily in July 2021. He was hired at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Now, he is returning to Aurora, a place he was first hired in 2009, to resume service to the city.
Matthew Longshore, a spokesperson for the department, said Green went through the proper channels to re-enter the department. He applied during the tenure of interim chief Dan Oates, who immediately preceded current interim chief Art Acevedo. The Civil Service Commission signed off on his reinstatement and now he is back in uniform in Aurora.
“Officer Green was within the allowed timeframe for reinstatement to APD. He will be assigned to patrol after he completes the reintegration process,” Longshore said.
The acting chief said, according to FOX 31, three different agencies weighed in on this decision.
Acevedo also addressed Green’s threat to use dogs on McClain. He said it was a tactical bluff.
“It is a tactic that is authorized in many places to try to take a situation and bring it to a conclusion safely,” Acevedo said, adding that the tactic has been outlawed.
“It’s a balance as we move forward as a state and as a community and we just have to be really thoughtful in how we respond,” Acevedo said.
The supporters from the community, like activist Candice Bailey, took special offense when Green was rehired, saying, “On the eve of the arraignments of the trial, they rehire the man who was culpable in assisting in the murder of Elijah McClain? This is more than a slap in the face not only to the Black and brown people of Aurora but to all the people there.”
“There is nothing wise about rehiring a cop who threatened a Black man with his life using a dog,” she said. “That man has blood on his hands.”
Sheneen McClain also believes the decision is a slap in the face, saying she is “disappointed and disgusted” by the rehire.
“They’re disrespecting my family by not holding everybody at the murder site accountable,” she said.
McClain added, “Him threatening my son with his dog though my son was already handcuffed — that’s their club and he is a part of that club. It’s a bullsh-t club. For whatever reason, his prejudice is required at APD.”
More than anything, the bereaved mother-turned-activist says she had been working on reforms with former police chief Vanessa Wilson, who was fired in April 2022. She said after Wilson was let go, she started to see the work they did together unravel.
“They are doing everything they can to undo police accountability in my son’s murder,” she said.