Aurora officers fired for reenacting chokehold file appeals

DENVER (AP) — Two Colorado police officers fired for a photo reenacting a chokehold used on a Black man arrested last year appealed their terminations, officials said Thursday.

Officers Kyle Dittrich and Erica Marrero were fired last week after Aurora police released a photo showing them and a third officer smiling as they reenacted the chokehold their colleagues used on Elijah McClain, who died after police stopped him as he walked down the street in the Denver suburb of Aurora. The third officer, Jaron Jones, resigned.

The appeals were filed July 8 with the Aurora Civil Service Commission and the next step is for the commission to schedule hearing dates.

“Upon hearing the case with a fresh presentation of all evidence, the commission will rule on whether to uphold the chief’s disciplinary decision or reduce it,” city spokesperson Michael Bryant said in an email to The Associated Press.

McClain’s death drew new attention following nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice. Facing increasing pressure, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis told the state attorney general to reopen the case in June after prosecutors last year declined to charge the three white officers who confronted McClain.

Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson launched an investigation into two photos taken by the officers after another officer reported that they were taken near where the 23-year-old was stopped — a site that’s now a memorial.

Jason Rosenblatt, one of the officers who arrested McClain in August, received the photo and responded by text with “Haha,” and was fired along with Dittrich and Marrero for conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Wilson called the photos “a crime against humanity and decency.”

Officers stopped McClain, a massage therapist, after a 911 call on Aug. 24, 2019, reported him as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask and flailing his arms. Police said they had a right to stop him because he was “being suspicious." He begged them repeatedly to let go of him, according to body-camera video.

Police placed him in a chokehold that cuts off blood to the brain, and paramedics administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm him down. He suffered cardiac arrest, was later declared brain dead and taken off life support.

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Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.”

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