AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department (APD) announced Thursday that officer Jaron Jones resigned his position and identified him as one of three officers in photos allegedly depicting choke holds near the site of a struggle with Elijah McClain on August 24, 2019.
McClain, 23, died on Aug. 27 after he went into cardiac arrest following that struggle with three different officers who were not in the photos.
APD said Jones was hired by the department in October 2016. The other officers have not been named.
The photos were taken last October, however, the incident was first reported last Thursday when a fellow Aurora officer told administrators about the pictures. That was two days before protests over McClain’s death that resulted in a clash between police and demonstrators.
Some of McClain's friends said they are worried that the officer's resignation could mean he'll escape consequences.
"The fact that they're able to resign while under investigation is problematic because what should happen there should be a full investigation with no option of resignation and then at that point, if they are found guilty they should lose their certification so they can't be a police officer anywhere," said April Young who met McClain when he worked for her after graduating from massage therapy school.
According to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing internal investigation, the officers took the photos near the intersection of East Colfax Avenue and Billings Street, where McClain was subdued during a confrontation last August 24. He was pronounced dead just days later.
"I am deeply concerned over the facts surrounding the photographs that [Aurora Police Department (APD) Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson] has shared with me," Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman tweeted Tuesday. "I understand that there are due process procedural requirements that are in progress. I will comment on the case once the investigation is complete."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Denver Division of the FBI announced on Tuesday they have been looking into the death of McClain.
In a joint statement, the agencies said they began reviewing the facts in the McClain case for a potential federal civil rights investigation in 2019.
“The standard practice of the Department of Justice is to not discuss the existence or progress of ongoing investigations," the statement reads. "However, there are specific cases in which doing so is warranted if such information is in the best interest of the public and public safety. Recent attention on the death of Elijah McClain warrants such disclosure.
“We are also aware of recent media reports about Aurora police officers being placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into a photograph in which those officers appeared. We are gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted."
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