Elijah McClain’s cousin speaks out amid new developments in case

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Elijah McClain’s cousin spoke out about recent developments in the case. For Kenya Kaufman, what she once thought was over suddenly has new life. She hopes the new attention to her cousin’s case leads to justice.

When FOX31 and Channel 2 spoke with Kaufman, we talked about the day she learned McClain was in the intensive care unit after an Aug. 24, 2019 altercation with officers with the Aurora Police Department (APD).

Last November, Aurora police released body camera footage from the night of the altercation. They also included footage as officers made calls to notify McClain’s family and the difficult conversations they had in the hours that followed at the hospital.

Kaufman remembered those conversations well.

“I wanted them to know that my cousin was a good person,” said Kaufman.

In the video, she is seen crying as officers struggled to give her information about what happened the night before with her cousin, telling Kaufman and one of McClain’s aunts that the department was investigating the incident.

“Will he recover? Will he be able to come home? Will he be alive?” Kaufman remembered asking herself as she drove to the hospital that day.

McClain was pronounced brain dead on Aug. 27.

Kaufman said she believes her cousin was killed. Aurora police have called it a tragic loss.

The night he was incapacitated, 23-year-old McClain was wearing a mask when someone called 911 to report that he seemed suspicious. He was not committing a crime and was unarmed when police approached him.

Kaufman said McClain had been walking home after buying tea at a convenience store. McClain was living at Kaufman’s home at the time. She said McClain told her 14-year-old son he would be right back. 

“For him not to come back, it broke my son’s heart,” said Kaufman.

Officers got into the altercation with McClain after they confronted him. Medics were called and McClain was injected with the drug ketamine. McClain later died in the hospital.

The coroner did not determine the exact cause or manner of death. In November, the district attorney declined to file charges against any of the officers involved. In January, APD’s Force Review Board found the officers’ actions were within policy and consistent with training.

For Kaufman, that meant her case was closed.

Months later, outrage over the death of George Floyd reignited anger over McClain’s death. Protests and public outcry got the attention of decision makers. By July, there were at least four reviews of  Elijah McClain case, including one by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Kaufman hopes the new investigations leads to accountability.

“There’s a process for everything. Like Elijah, I’m patient,” said Kaufman.

She said she is grateful for all of the support people have shown for McClain’s case and the push for new investigations. That support continues.

On Saturday, there is a candlelight vigil scheduled for Elijah McClain and his family at Utah Park on Jewell Avenue and Peoria Street at 5 p.m. McClain’s mother Sheneen, according to the organizers, is expected to be at the event.

On Sunday, there is a car protest scheduled at 3 p.m. According to a Facebook event post, several local activist groups will hold the car protest throughout Aurora to bring attention to McClain’s case.

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