Three suburban Denver officers fired over photos re-enacting a chokehold like the one police used on Elijah McClain before the Black man died in 2019 won’t get their jobs back, officials said Tuesday.
The Aurora Civil Service Commission issued a decision Tuesday upholding the firings of Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich and Jason Rosenblatt.
They lost their jobs last year over the photos taken at a memorial to McClain two months after his death. Marrero, Dittrich and another officer who resigned, Jaron Jones, are shown smiling in one photo taken Oct. 20, 2019, and in another, Jones has his arm around Dittrich’s neck in a fake chokehold like the one used on McClain.
Police stopped the 23-year-old as he walked down the street on Aug. 24, 2019, after a 911 caller reported that he looked suspicious. Besides the chokehold, McClain was injected with the sedative ketamine. He suffered cardiac arrest and later was taken off life support.
Marrero, Jones and Dittrich sent the photos to two officers who stopped McClain — Nathan Woodyard and Rosenblatt — to try to cheer up Woodyard, authorities said. Rosenblatt replied “ha ha,” while Woodyard did not respond and deleted the photos.
In July, Jones resigned, and Marrero, Dittrich and Rosenblatt were fired for conduct unbecoming of an officer. Those three had appealed their terminations. Woodyard was not disciplined.
McClain’s death drew renewed attention last summer amid a reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice, prompting an investigation by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a review by the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI, and an investigation by the City of Aurora.