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Aurora PD says body cameras recorded but fell off during altercation with man who later died

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AURORA, Colo. -- The Aurora Police Department’s deputy chief says APD is looking into a new body-camera company and new ways to keep the cameras intact when officers are engaged in physical altercations after cameras dislodged during a high-profile case involving a man who later died.

“It is not uncommon for (cameras to come off). It is a common complaint for us -- especially in physical altercations -- for those to become dislodged,” said Paul O’Keefe, Aurora’s deputy police chief.

O’Keefe talked about the body cameras during a press conference on Friday in which he spoke about the ongoing investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.

The Aurora Police Department says it will not release the body camera footage until the district attorney’s office allows it.

“We do not release evidence in pending cases,” said Sue Lindsay, a spokesperson for District Attorney Dave Young.

Although the footage has not been released publicly, McClain’s family and the attorney representing McClain’s family, Mari Newman, each had an opportunity to review the footage privately.

Newman said she’s suspicious that the cameras on three different officers dislodged and calls the actions of the police officers “torture.”

“Unless there is either an intentional effort to dislodge the body cameras or an extraordinarily rough use of force, they shouldn’t fall off because that’s not what they’re designed to do. But all three of them fell off here, and that certainly looks very, very suspicious,” said Newman.

“It doesn’t help us when it looks like something that it’s not, and in that case, the cameras fell off during the altercation. We want them to stay on. It would be helpful for us if they stayed on," said O’Keefe.

O'Keefe says Newman’s description of the officers’ interaction with McClain is a mischaracterization.

According to Aurora police spokesperson Anthony Camacho, officers wear Vievu LE5 body-worn cameras.

A company called Axon acquired Vievu in May 2018, according to Carley Partridge, a communications manager for Axon.

Axon told the FOX31 Problem Solvers that it is possible that body-worn cameras can come off in a “really rough scuffle.” Axon also said it designed its cameras with “ruggedness in mind so they can best withstand conditions including scuffles, extreme weather and heat.”

“It is possible for a body-worn cameras (BWC) to become unmounted during a hand-to-hand encounter between a law enforcement officer and a perpetrator.  However since 2009, when we began deploying BWCs to law enforcement agencies, this has not been reported as a significant issue to Axon,” the Axon press team wrote in a statement to FOX31.

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