Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has appointed the state’s attorney general as special prosecutor in the case of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died shortly after an arrest 10 months ago that has caused outrage nationwide.

“I was moved by speaking with Elijah’s mother and her description of her son as a responsible and curious child who became a vegetarian to be healthier, and who could inspire the darkest soul,” Polis said in a statement. “His friends describe him as a gentle peacemaker who worked as a massage therapist and enjoyed playing the violin. Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern.

“Now more than ever, we must do everything within our power to foster public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” he added.


Prosecutors opted not to charge the police officers from Aurora, Colorado, involved in the incident involving McClain where he was placed in a chokehold and then given a sedative by medical personnel. McClain was stopped as he was walking home from a convenience store after a 911 caller reported a “suspicious person.” The 23-year-old McClain was wearing a ski mask and listening to music on his headphones when the police officers approached him.

“I was just going home. I don’t have a gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t even kill flies,” McClain could be heard saying on the police body cameras. “I don’t even eat meat. I’m just different.”

McClain was placed into an ambulance where he stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. Six days later, on Aug. 30, he was removed from life support.