Editor’s Note: This week jurors in Colorado acquitted an officer of manslaughter for using a chokehold in a 2019 incident involving 23 year-old Elijah McClain who later died in custody. This makes the second officer acquitted in the case, while one has been convicted. Jury selection in the case of paramedics, for allegedly administering a deadly dose of the drug ketamine, will begin on November 27. Cover art, Ameya Okamoto’s Elijah McClain tribute, used by permission, Denverite.com
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6, KJV).
“And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13, NKJ).
Elijah McClain volunteered at a pet shelter and played the violin to calm the cats. He wore his hoodie indoors because he would often feel cold due to his anemia.
Below are Elijah McClain’s parting words after being arrested because someone called 911 and said he looked suspicious. An officer began physically restraining him within 10 seconds of stopping his patrol car and called for backup. After two more cops join in, they call for backup as well. One of the later arrivals threatened to bring a dog to bite Elijah even though he was already handcuffed and being held down by three men on top of him. One of them had him in a chokehold which temporarily rendered him unconscious.
I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people; I don’t judge people who eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You all are very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. [Crying] Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly. [proceeds to vomit from the pressure to his chest and neck]
The officers continued to hold down the handcuffed Elijah while paramedics injected him in the shoulder/neck area with a full 500ml vial of ketamine to calm his “excited delirium.” This would reign in what officers called Elijah’s “incredible strength.”
NBCnews.com reported that the medic on the scene would estimate that McClain weighed 220 pounds, but “the coroner said he was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.”
A medic overestimated Elijah’s weight by 80 pounds and drugged him accordingly. That’s almost enough extra sedative for another whole human. Of course, exaggerating the size, strength, and violent intentions of Black males isn’t new in America. Our mythical prowess once again served as justification for multiple officers equipped with training in defensive and control tactics and an array of lethal and non-lethal weapons to subdue and choke him until they could get medics to drug him.
After being arrested and choked without being charged for committing or conspiring to commit a crime, and after receiving an overdose of a powerful sedative for a dubious diagnosis, Elijah died in custody of those who are entrusted to heal and protect.
While many in the community mourned, a year, two, or three . . . one group of officers celebrated with a selfie, joking about the chokehold inflicted on Elijah McClain at the scene where he died. And, at a peaceful violin vigil to remember McClain, officers appeared in riot gear, later using pepper spray to repel the mourners, protestors.
Has the world once again mistaken Elijah, because he didn’t come in the way we thought he would? Are we missing our opportunity to prepare for the great and dreadful day of the Lord? Are our hearts turning toward or away from one another? Do we remember that Jesus said he would appear to us in disguise to see what we really think of him (Matthew 25:31-46)? What does the judicial response to Elijah McClain’s death signify about “America’s moment to come to Jesus”? Will it keep trying to lock him out as he knocks (Revelation 3:20)?