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Colorado Officers Who Reenacted Choke Hold In Elijah McClain's Arrest Are Fired

In announcing her decision to fire the officers involved in taking the photo or commenting on it, Aurora Police Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson said she was "ashamed" and "sickened" by the former officers' actions.

By Jill Sederstrom

The Colorado police officers who took a photo of themselves reenacting a choke hold that had been used on Elijah McClain before he died have been fired.

Aurora Police Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson announced the police department’s decision to fire the officers Friday after an internal affairs investigation determined the officers had committed conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to information provided by the police department.

Officers Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jaron Jones had been on duty on October 20, 2019 when they stopped by a memorial site for McClain — who died after police took the unarmed black man into custody using a carotid control hold — and took a smiling selfie re-enacting the hold.

Marrero and Dittrich have both been fired for the incident. Jones resigned from his position before the internal investigation was completed.

Erica Marrero Jaron Jones Kyle Dittrich Pd 1

A fourth officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was also fired after police said he was sent the selfie photograph and responded with “HaHa,” according to documents released by police.

Rosenblatt had been one of three officers — along with Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard — who responded to the call of a suspicious person wearing a ski mask on August 24, 2019 and took McClain, 23, into custody, according to an earlier report released by District Attorney Dave Young’s office.

The officers said McClain refused to stop as police tried to question him and then tensed up when officers were trying to pat him down. One of the officers can be heard on the body camera footage saying to another officer that McClain had “just grabbed your gun” before the officers tried to restrain him by force.

Woodyard allegedly put McClain in the choke hold until he “briefly went unconscious” and then released the hold, according to the district attorney’s office.

While he was pinned down, McClain also began vomiting and said he was having difficulty breathing, according to PEOPLE.

After arriving at the scene, paramedics gave McClain ketamine, a drug one medic said is often used when “someone is showing signs of excited delirium,” according to the district attorney’s report. Shortly after, the medic realized McClain did not have a pulse and resuscitated the 23-year-old.

He was declared brain dead on August 27 at a local hospital, where he died.

The officers involved were later cleared by a department review board.

Aurora city council members are expected to vote Monday night to determine whether to approve a team of outside investigators to look into the case, local station KMGH-TV reports.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order directing Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate the officer’s actions the night of McClain’s arrest late last month, the Associated Press reports.

Officers Marrero, Dittrich and Jones returned to the site where a memorial for McClain had been created months later to take the photo re-creating the choke hold.

Another photo shows the three happily smiling for the camera.

Erica Marrero Jaron Jones Kyle Dittrich Pd 2

Wilson said Friday she was “ashamed” and “sickened” by the former officers’ actions, according to PEOPLE.

“While the allegations of this internal affairs case are not criminal, it is a crime against humanity and decency,” she said.

Wilson said she became aware of the incident on June 25 after an “uninvolved officer” saw the photo and reported it to a supervisor, according to a statement. The officers involved were immediately placed on leave as the internal affairs investigation into the incident began.

Jones later resigned from his position in a letter to Wilson dated June 30, citing “personal reasons” for his decision to leave the department.

“It has been an honor and privilege to work alongside the men and women of the Aurora Police Department,” he wrote in the letter released by police. “I am proud of the work we have done and value and appreciate the opportunity to serve this community.”