Colorado lawmakers react to manslaughter charge against Elijah McClain first responders

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Indictment charges for law enforcement and emergency personnel involved in Elijah McClain’s death hit home for state lawmakers. The incident happened in their own backyard, pushing them to change the laws here in Colorado to include more accountability for first responders.

They feel these charges are a result of the actions of many who wanted change. They say these indictments are the type of advancement they have been seeking.

“Thinking about Elijah and the fact that he had to die for this moment, you know we can’t have glee, but what we can have is hope. Hope that change is coming, hope that change is here for Colorado and hope that across the country, no mother will have to face this situation ever again,” said state representative and Black caucus leader Leslie Herod.

Herod said one move from McClain’s mother Sheneen changed the trajectory in the fight for justice in his case.

“It took courage for her to stand up in one of those first protests, literally when I was speaking to take the megaphone and say ‘why aren’t you fighting for my son?’ I looked at her and I said, ‘you’re right.’ We need to be talking and centering Elijah McClain in this work because this happened right here in Colorado,” Herod said.

Since then, Herod championed Senate Bill 217, banning the use of chokeholds for arrests and House Bill 1251, banning police from influencing the use of ketamine on someone. Senate sponsor Rhonda Fields said the measures make sure we don’t see more deaths like McClain’s.

“Over the course of time, lawmakers have done a very good job being responsive to the feedback we’re hearing as it relates to unarmed people who end up dead in the custody of police,” Fields said.

Both lawmakers said they are pleased with the 32 charges brought forward. They said if incidents like this happen in the future, heavier charges like murder could come down with the new measures in place.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis:

“Elijah McClain’s death was a tragedy and my thoughts are with his mother, father, friends, and family today. This innocent young man should be here today. I thank Attorney General Phil Weiser and the members of the Grand Jury for their work to hold those responsible accountable,” Polis said. “I continue to urge my fellow Coloradans to consider how we can work together to build a better future where everyone can be safe walking home and a Colorado for all.”

Colorado Sen. Rhonda Fields

“After two long years, we finally have some clarity on Elijah McClain’s case, and can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that these individuals will be held accountable for their vile actions,” Fields said. “Today, I stand in solidarity with the McClain family, all of his loved ones, and the Aurora community, and commit to continue working together to advance meaningful criminal justice reform so we can create a world where black lives truly do matter.”

Colorado Sen. Janet Buckner:

“Elijah McClain was a gentle soul who cared for others, who wanted to change the world, but whose precious life was taken from us much too soon,” Buckner said. “Far too often, instances of police violence wreak havoc on communities of color, and so many Black men and women do not get the justice and accountability they deserve. Today, we got some accountability and a real path toward justice.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse:

“The tragic death of Elijah McClain was devastating for so many in the Colorado community. While accountability for those involved in his death cannot bring him back, such justice is critical to provide healing for his family and the community,” Neguse said. “I am grateful to Attorney General Weiser for his work to seek the truth and further the rule of law. While the prosecution for Elijah’s death continues, we also must work to change our laws and ensure a tragedy like this one never happens again. We’ve introduced the Ketamine Restriction Act to federally ban the use of ketamine during arrest or detention for precisely this reason.”

Catch up with the investigation here:

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