Last August, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man named Elijah McClain was walking back to his home in Aurora, Colorado when he was stopped by three white police officers responding to a call about a “suspicious” person. Bodycam footage shows McClain pleading with officers to leave him alone, saying “I’m an introvert! Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” but police nevertheless put him in a chokehold, causing him to briefly lose consciousness. First responders injected McClain with ketamine as a sedative, which caused a heart attack in the ambulance. He was pronounced brain dead at the hospital and died three days later. The officers were involved were briefly put on administrative leave, but were reinstated after the Adams County district attorney declined to pursue charges.

But now, in the wake of the protests that have swept the nation calling for greater police accountability, activists have been calling for another look into just what happened to McClain, how it could have been avoided and whether or not anyone should be held responsible for his senseless and apparently avoidable death. After a petition to re-open the case received well over two million signatures,  Governor Jared Polis announced that he’s told his office to take another look. Attorney General Phil Weiser has been designated as a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. 

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman has called for an independent investigation, saying “We need to bring closure to this tragic incident by making sure every aspect of it is thoroughly investigated.” Colorado has already passed a series of police reform bills banning chokeholds and ending qualified immunity. 

Friends and family remember Elijah McClain as a shy, sweet-natured young man who liked to soothe the cats at a local shelter by playing the violin for them.