Three officers from the Aurora Police Department have been fired over a photo reenacting the chokehold that occurred before the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in police custody last summer, the interim police chief announced Friday. The officer who mimicked the chokehold, Jaron Jones, resigned earlier this week.
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson showed the two photos that led to the officers’ termination at a news conference. One photo shows three officers — identified as Jones, Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich — smiling near what Wilson described as the site of McClain’s memorial. The other shows Jones reenacting a carotid hold on Dittrich, with the officers still smiling. Officer Jason Rosenblatt did not appear in the photos, but was also terminated after he responded “haha” when he was texted the images. He also did not report them supervisors. Rosenblatt was the only officer involved in the photos who actually responded to the August 2019 arrest that ended up in McClain’s death.
“It is a crime against humanity and decency,” Wilson said, adding that the photos show “a lack of morals, values and integrity.” McClain was killed in August of last year after he was confronted by officers on the street. He was put in a carotid control hold after an officer said he was reaching for one of their guns. He fell unconscious but woke up before he was sedated with ketamine for allegedly resisting arrest. He suffered cardiac arrest and died three days later.
The Aurora Police Association called the internal investigation leading to the termination of the officers over the photos a “rush to judgement.”
“The appearance of impropriety is obvious. It is extremely concerning to the Aurora Police Association that Interim Chief Wilson is willing to disregard the rights of our members and due process that is afforded to all police employees,” the union said in a statement.
The union added that they think Wilson is “unfit for the position that she currently holds and should be dropped from the final slate of candidates to be the next Chief of the Aurora Police Department.”