AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Community activists are livid after learning a group of Aurora police officers are under investigation for photographing themselves, allegedly posing inappropriately, mocking the manner in which Elijah McClain was restrained by police, near his memorial site.
“We all just cried on the phone,” said Lindsay Minter, a newly appointed member of the City’s community police task force. Minter said she was on the phone with Candice Bailey, a fellow activist, and Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother.
McClain posted her own thoughts on her personal Twitter account, saying, “It’s a bunch of smoke, Aurora Colorado has failed in providing justice to its citizens by allowing corrupt officials and police officers to roam the streets,” she wrote. “I am not surprised that these photos are showing up now because the whole department is corrupt. Killers being protected by cowards and cowards being protected by killers.”
Bailey said she spoke to the interim police chief, Vanessa Wilson, upon learning of the photos that had been circulated.
While the Aurora Police Department would not confirm how many officers were involved or what, exactly, they were depicted doing, Bailey said she was told the officers were joking about the altercation that preceded McClain’s death.
“She told me that… there were three officers that were involved, placed on administrative leave, re-enacting what occurred with Elijah,” she said. Bailey said she did not see the photos.
Meanwhile, the vice chair of Aurora’s Public Safety Courts and Civil Service Commission Policy Committee, Curtis Gardner, said he thought the actions of the officers, as described to him, were callous and disgusting.
“Even if it was intended as a joke, it’s not funny. It’s incredibly inappropriate, and so, from my perspective, I hope that once this is complete that those officers receive a discipline commensurate with what they did,” he said. “I was truly disgusted.”
KDVR has learned Wilson sent out pre-disciplinary letters to the officers who were involved, including her recommendations for punishment. The officers have 72 hours to respond with a rebuttal.
Wilson promised to release the photos, the names of the officers and the full investigative files when the entire investigation is complete.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice also revealed that it has been actively reviewing the police altercation with McClain for a “potential federal civil rights investigation” since 2019.
“We are in the process of gathering additional evidence from the Aurora Police Department and other parties,” the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and the Denver Division of the FBI said in a joint statement. “We are also aware of recent media reports about Aurora police officers being placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into a photograph in which those officers appeared. We are gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted.”