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Probe started after Elijah McClain's death finds pattern of racially biased policing, Colorado attorney general says

Grand jury returns charges in Elijah McClain death
Family responds to grand jury indictments in Elijah McClain death 05:04

A civil rights investigation following the death of Elijah McClain found the Aurora Police Department displayed patterns of racially biased policing and excessive use of force, Colorado's attorney general said Wednesday.

"These actions are unacceptable," Attorney General Phil Weiser said. "They hurt the people that law enforcement is entrusted to protect, and they destroy community trust."

Weiser said the investigation found that officers regularly applied more force than warranted without giving residents enough time to respond to commands. He said most of the underlying reasons behind these "failures" are systemic and "severe cultural challenges" created by several factors, including the department's police culture, flawed discipline policies and hiring issues.

Investigators analyzed more than three million records, nearly 3,000 police reports and analyzed internal data from the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire and Rescue.

"We'll hold Aurora accountable for past patterns and practices," Weiser said.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was killed after being put into a chokehold and injected with a sedative by police in August 2019. McClain was walking home from a convenience store wearing a ski mask. Someone called the police to report a suspicious person and three officers arrived to try and arrest him.

Officers tackled McClain to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and Aurora Fire Department personnel later injected him with ketamine. McClain suffered a heart attack and was later removed from life support.

Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted officers and paramedics involved in his death on 32 different counts, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges.

The investigation, which is the first of its kind in the state, follows the passing of a comprehensive police reform bill that requires the attorney general to notify government agencies should "a pattern or practice" of violating people's constitutional rights be found. Under the law, the accused agency has 60 days to implement changes before the attorney general can then take legal action.

"We're prepared to move forward with legal action if necessary to address these issues," Weiser said Wednesday.

Weiser called for cultural and leadership changes to the police and fire department as well as a consent decree with his office. "We see this as a unique opportunity," Weiser said. "It's a moment in time when we're focused with Aurora, stepping back. How do we want to elevate? How do we want to improve? So it is a compelling opportunity. We intend to do our best to make the most of it."

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