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Three Aurora, Colo., police officers linked to controversial photos snapped at the site of a memorial for Elijah McClain were fired Friday, according to reports.
The firings came after a fourth officer linked to the photos resigned from the Aurora Police Department earlier in the week, FOX 31 of Denver reported.
The photos were taken last October, about two months after McClain, 23, died following a police stop that involved a chokehold against him.
AURORA POLICE IN COLORADO QUESTIONED ON USE OF FORCE DURING ELIJAH MCCLAIN PROTEST: REPORT
In at least one of the photos, the smiling officers appear to mock the chokehold at the memorial site.
From left are Aurora (Colo.) Police Department officers Erica Marrero, Jaron Jones and Kyle Dittrich. Jones resigned earlier this week and Marrerro, Dittrich and Officer Jason Rosenblatt (not pictured) were fired Friday. (Aurora Police Department via AP)
Fired Friday were officers Kyle Dittrich, Erica Morrera and Jason Rosenblatt. Officer Jaron Jones resigned.
One photo shows Jones with one of his arms around Dittrich’s neck as Morrera looks on. Rosenblatt was identified as an officer who responded “HaHa” after the photo was shared in a group chat online.
Previously, Rosenblatt was one of three officers reassigned to “non-enforcement” duties in connection with McClain’s death last August. The two other officers were identified as Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema.
COLORADO POLICE LINKED TO ELIJAH MCCLAIN CASE REASSIGNED TO ‘NON-ENFORCEMENT’ ROLES: REPORT
Woodyard is the officer who applied the chokehold to McClain, The Associated Press reported.
One reason for the reassignments was that the three officers were facing death threats over their ties to the McClain case, a police spokesman told FOX 31.
Meanwhile, Mari Newman, an attorney representing McClain’s family, issued a statement after the Friday firings.
“It’s disgusting to think they’re so callous to murdering an innocent young black man that they think it’s appropriate to joke about it and send around photos,” Newman said, according to FOX 31.
Sheneen McClain, right, and family attorney Mari Newman are seen July 3, 2020, at the memorial site across the street from where McClain’s 23-year-old son, Elijah, was stopped last August by Aurora, Colo., police. (Associated Press)
Other supporters of McClain noted that while four officers have left the force over photos, Woodyard and Roedema — linked to the McClain death — still have their jobs.
“Rosenblatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for murdering Elijah, but for making fun of Elijah,” Terrence Roberts, a community organizer and family friend told the AP. “That is the culture that we’re fighting, where a police officer can murder a black man, a black child, and keep his job and stay on the force so he can go make fun of this child.”
Aurora’s mayor condemned the fired officers’ alleged behavior.
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“The officers’ actions in these photos are appalling and inexcusable and will not be tolerated by the Interim Chief or by me,” Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said, according to FOX 31.
Interim police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she spoke with all four officers immediately after learning about the photos in late June.
“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said, according to AP. The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs were “a crime against humanity and decency,” she added.
Aurora Police Department Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson addresses reporters July 3, 2020, in Aurora, Colo. (Associated Press)
The officers’ cellphones were collected as part of an investigation, Wilson told FOX 31.
On Tuesday, a review board decided all four officers should be fired but the officers were given 72 hours to produce any new information they wanted the board to consider. Jones resigned soon afterward and the other officers were terminated Friday, FOX 31 reported.
The Aurora Police Association – the union that represents the officers – opposed the firing of Rosenblatt, arguing he was not involved in taking or distributing the photos, and hadn’t even seen them until months later.
“Though this Officer had no part in the taking or distribution of the photos, and was sent the photos months after they were first taken, he was terminated from his job as an Aurora Police Officer effective immediately,” the unuion wrote in a Facebook post.
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Police put McClain in a chokehold during a confrontation Aug. 24. McClain suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was later declared brain dead. He was taken off life support less than a week later.
The firings in Colorado came as interactions between police and the public are drawing increased scrutiny following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death led to charges against four Minneapolis officers – including a murder charge for one of them – and set off weeks of rioting and protests across the U.S.
Fox News’ Lucas Manfredi and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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