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Colorado officers under investigation over photos taken near Elijah McClain memorial

Gov. appoints prosecutor in Elijah McClain case
Gov. appoints prosecutor in Elijah McClain ca... 01:26

Three police officers in Aurora, Colorado, have been put on leave while authorities investigate photos allegedly showing them near the area where 23-year-old Elijah McClain was killed last August. Sources told CBS Denver that the unreleased photos show officers reenacting the hold that preceded McClain's death. 

"Thursday afternoon, I was apprised of allegations reported to Internal Affairs by an Aurora Police Officer alleging multiple Aurora Police officers were depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died," the department's interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, said in a statement Monday night. "All involved officers were immediately placed on administrative leave with pay in non-enforcement capacities."

Wilson said an accelerated investigation was completed Monday night, and promised the results of the full investigation will be released "promptly upon its conclusion." 

"This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer's names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination," Wilson said. 

Tensions have been high since McClain's fatal encounter with police last August, but his death has received renewed attention following nationwide protests against police brutality.  

"When we see photos like this, that trust is still broken for us," said forensic psychology professor Apryl Alexander, who is part of Black Lives Matter Denver. "Are we actually going to feel safe?" 

People protest the death of Elijah McClain
At a vigil in Aurora, Colorado, on June 27, 2020,Valerie Reives plays the viola while protesters shine their mobile phone lights to honor Elijah McClain who, when alive, would play his violin at animal shelters because he thought the kittens were lonely. KEVIN MOHATT / REUTERS

McClain was killed in August 2019, after an encounter with three police officers in which an officer claimed he reached for one of their guns. He was put in a chokehold, causing him to fall unconscious, and was given ketamine as a sedative after he woke up and allegedly became aggressive, according to a report compiled by District Attorney Dave Young.   

He then suffered cardiac arrest that led to a loss of blood flow to the brain, and was pronounced brain dead three days later. 

Young did not charge the officers, claiming there wasn't enough evidence to move forward. But after facing national scrutiny and calls for arrests, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed a special prosecutor in the case last week. 

The three officers involved in McClain's death were moved last week off regular duty "in an effort to protect those officers," a city spokesperson said.  

Adriana Diaz contributed reporting. 

Elijah McClain Mari Newman
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