Who Was Elijah McClain, an Introvert Black Man Who Was Killed by Cops Over Wearing a Mask?

Elijah McClain was killed in August last year after police put him on a chokehold, before he was administered ketamine.

Elijah McClain, a 23-year old African-American man from Aurora, Colorado, died in police custody in August last year. A police officer had employed a chokehold on McClain as he said, "I can't breathe". As he fell unconscious, first responders injected 500 milligrams of ketamine into him. He died three days later.

The case of McClain has an uncanny resemblance with that of George Floyd's, other than that the former could not garner as much media coverage as the latter. But due to the widespread protests against systematic racism and police brutality, McClain's case has invoked public consciousness. A change.org petition demanding the ouster of the police officers involved as well as an in-depth investigation into the incident has been signed close to 2.5 million times.

Elijah McClain
Elijah McClain GoFundMe/Sheneen McClain

On August 23, 2019, McClain was walking home just after 10:30 p.m. after buying tea from a local convenience store. He wore a ski mask to cover his face. According to his family, he was anemic, thus he wore the mask to keep his face warm. Also, he was an introvert and the mask helped him cope up with his social anxiety.

The Aurora Police got a 911 call about a suspicious black man wearing a ski mask and "acting weird" by "waving his arms around", read the incident overview written by District Attorney Dave Young. Three officers, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, reached the spot and asked McClain to stop walking. He "appeared to ignore" the officer's commands and "continued walking", the overview stated.

The officer again told him to stop, to which he replied that he had the right to go anywhere he wanted. The situation soon escalated with two officers grabbing his arms. An officer later told a detective that he thought McCain had a gun. No weapon was found.

As McClain struggled, an officer put him on a chokehold. He gasped for air, pleading officers to let him go. "I am an introvert, please respect my boundaries", he told officers, CBS reported. He vomited, gasped for air and lost consciousness. A fire medic who reached the scene injected him with 500 milligrams of Ketamine and lodged him into the ambulance. He suffered a cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital and died on August 27.

The autopsy report released at the time of his death could not determine the cause of his death -- whether it was due to the police's action, or the drug injection or due to natural causes. The officers involved were sent on a paid administrative leave, but have been inducted back into the force.

How do his Friends and Family Remember Him?

McClain worked as a massage therapist and knew how to play guitar and violin. He was an animal lover and spent his lunchtime playing violin for cats at local animal shelters, as he believed music would help soothe their anxiety, Sentinel reported. He often developed close relationships with his massage clients, who described him as having a "child-like spirit", who never tried "fitting-in".

Marna Arnett, one of his friends and former clients, described him as "the sweetest, purest person" she ever met. She called him "a light in a whole lot of darkness". His friends and family describe him as a spiritual seeker, pacifist, oddball, vegetarian, athlete, peacemaker and exceedingly gentle.