Three Aurora, Colorado, police officers were fired Friday for taking part in a disrespectful selfie-photo session near the memorial site for Elijah McClain, who died after being in a police chokehold, the interim chief said.
The officers involved in the photos, which show three of them smiling as one is in a mock chokehold, were identified by interim Chief Vanessa Wilson of the Aurora Police Department as Jason Rosenblatt, Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich. A fourth officer, Jaron Jones, resigned Tuesday.
“We are ashamed, we’re sickened and we’re angered,” she said Friday. “I am disgusted to my core.”
Rosenblatt, the only one of the four also involved in the encounter with McClain, was not seen in two group selfies released by the department. But he responded “ha-ha” when he received them by group text, authorities said.
Wilson indicated a fifth officer also received the photos by text but may have done nothing wrong.
She said the officers have said “they were trying to cheer up a friend by sending that photo.” But she said she doesn’t believe the story.
One of the photos shows Jones in the center of two officers, using a mock chokehold on Dittrich, with Marrero to his right.
“They reenacted the carotid control hold, which was what was administered on Elijah,” Wilson said.
She said the photos were taken Oct. 20 “outside of the location where there was a memorial set up for Elijah.”
The chief said she found out about the images about eight days ago.
Demonstrators on Friday took to the streets of Aurora, outside Denver, where McClain’s mother was expected to speak.
The Aurora Police Association criticized the chief for firing Rosenblatt despite his lack of direct participation. And it said the officers have been denied fair hearings.
“All of these steps ordered by Interim Chief Wilson were violations of the officer’s due process rights,” it said on Facebook. “By her actions today, Interim Chief Wilson has demonstrated that she is unfit for the position that she currently holds.”
Officers confronted McClain, 23, on Aug. 24 on a report of a suspicious person wearing a ski mask. Video recorded him saying that he’s an introvert and was heading home.
Officers put him in a chokehold and he went into cardiac arrest before dying at a hospital on Aug. 27. The three officers involved in his death were removed from street duty.
Gabe Gutierrez contributed.