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Aurora officials host town hall, answer questions about controversial death of 23-year-old

Data pix.

AURORA -- The Aurora Police Department, along with other elected city officials, hosted a town hall Saturday and encouraged the public to come out with questions about public safety.

Many of the questions they fielded, though, were about the controversial death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.

The Aurora man died in September after an interaction with Aurora Police and a subsequent trip to the hospital.

He was unarmed at the time.

“It’s just funny how all three officers’ cameras were dislodged. It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Darlene Jones, an Aurora resident who addressed the town hall panel Saturday.

Aurora Police Department Division Chief Vanessa Wilson said it’s not that uncommon for the cameras to get knocked loose during a struggle.

Aurora police are currently looking at switching to a different body camera company that claims to keep the cameras in place better.

“They should do everything within their power to make sure their cameras work. That way—once the camera is there and the public sees the story for themselves, that will help with officer perception,” said Hashim Coates, an Aurora resident, after the meeting.

At a press conference in October, the department said they wouldn’t release the body cam video until the district attorney is done investigating the case.

Wilson declined an on-camera interview with FOX31 on Saturday, but said during the meeting the Aurora Police Department hasn’t released the video yet, because they’re “bound by rules of procedure.”

“I can’t go into details about this case. Believe me, it is frustrating beyond belief for us to not be able to tell you, to show you the body camera, to give you the information,” said Wilson.

Others questioned police protocol during the September incident.

“He was 130 pounds. For three police officers to brutally beat and torture him for 15 minutes, regardless, is unacceptable. At the end of the day, had APD shown up and done their job as a public servant, in which they swore in oath to do so, he wouldn’t be dead right now,” said  April Young, Aurora resident, shortly after addressing the town hall panel.

“One of the main things I heard today is an independent commission to review the officers—that’s one of the main key issues that needs to be addressed and put forth,” said Keith Parker, who also lives in Aurora.

Nicole Johnston, an Aurora City Council member, announced this week she’s looking to create an oversight committee that would review future officer-involved shootings, and cases like McClain’s.

“It’s absolutely time,” said Johnston. “Our next door neighbors—Denver—has an independent monitor system. Major cities throughout the United States have that.”

Johnston says there is an independent review board in Aurora, but tells Fox31 it’s not meant to be a mechanism that reviews excessive use of force.

“The last time they met was September of 2018. They just meet if the Chief of Police in a disciplinary review wants to have the independent review board look at the recommendations of the Chief, or if the officer involved in that discipline wants the independent review board to look at at that,” Johnston said.

She estimates it would take at least six months to properly put together an oversight committee, and that’s if she can get five more council members to vote for it.

“There are five seats up right now, so this election—November 5th—is really critical to see if we’re having people in office who support that,” she said.

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