Colorado’s attorney general has announced an investigation into whether the “patterns and practices” at the Aurora Police Department are unconstitutional.
The investigation has been underway for “several weeks,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office said in a release Tuesday. The department has pledged full cooperation but said its police chief was only informed of the investigation by Weiser on Tuesday.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to transparency and earning the trust of our community back,” APD tweeted.
The Denver suburb has seen a wave of recent demonstrations amid the nationwide reckoning for an end to police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. And APD has faced particular scrutiny over its own practices.
Earlier this month, Aurora police drew their guns on a Black woman and four minors after mistaking her car for one that had been stolen.
Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in an earlier statement that “after realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized.” Colorado’s district attorney has announced an investigation into the incident.
The city of Aurora has also commissioned an independent investigation of the 2019 in-custody death of Elijah McClain as well as a “comprehensive review” of the police department, both of which are separate from the district attorney and state attorney general’s investigations.
A family demands justice
On Tuesday, McClain’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city of Aurora.
“Aurora’s unconstitutional conduct on the night of August 24, 2019, is part of a larger custom, policy, and practice of racism and brutality, as reflected by its conduct both before and after its murder of Elijah McClain, a young Black man,” the lawsuit says.
McClain was stopped by three White officers last August as he walked home from a nearby convenience store. After McClain resisted officer contact, a struggle ensued, and an officer placed McClain in a chokehold when he briefly lost consciousness, according to an overview of the incident police provided earlier this year.
McClain began struggling again once he was released from the hold, the report said. When paramedics arrived, they administered the drug ketamine to sedate McClain, the report said. McClain suffered a heart attack while in the ambulance and was declared brain dead three days later, the district attorney said in a letter.
The officers were placed on administrative leave following McClain’s death, but later were reinstated after prosecutors declined to file charges. In June, Gov. Jared Polis responded to public outcry by announcing that his administration was reexamining the case.
The lawsuit also names several members of the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue as defendants.
The filing lists nine claims of relief, including excessive force; denial of equal protection; failure to ensure basic safety and provide adequate medical care and treatment; substantive due process — deprivation of liberty — forcible administration of medication; battery causing wrongful death; and negligence causing wrongful death.
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the city of Aurora said they had not been served and could not comment on the filing until they have had time to review it.