Violins In Aurora

The cause was simple enough, a vigil to remember Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last summer at the hands of police.

Mr. McClain was walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24 when someone called 911, saying he “looked sketchy” and was wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.

The police arrived, and after struggling to handcuff Mr. McClain, officers brought him to the ground and used a carotid hold, which restricts blood to the brain to render someone unconscious. When medical responders arrived, after about 15 minutes, paramedics injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative.

He died of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. This didn’t make the national news at the time, and there are some questions as to whether the chokehold was the cause of death, although it unquestionably was the “but for” cause, as was the 911 call because someone thought he “looked sketchy.” And unsurprisingly, the ensuing Terry stop didn’t go well.

According to the camera footage, the officer responded, saying he had a right to stop Mr. McClain for looking suspicious, and grabbed him by the arms. As another officer approached, Mr. McClain can be heard saying, “I am an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking. Leave me alone.”

Though Mr. McClain had not committed a crime, officers immediately restrained him, telling him to stop resisting when he put his arms up to his chest and to “stop tensing up.” The footage shows Mr. McClain pleading with the officers to let go of him, and trying to get out of their grip.

Some will react with the ubiquitous “he should have complied,” and as the adage goes, comply now, grieve later, would have been the safer course. But McClain was, of course, legally in the right. Looking “sketchy” isn’t a crime and gives rise to no reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime is afoot. The cops can ask. He can tell them to get lost and assert his right to be left alone. McClain did. The cops didn’t take kindly to it, and McClain ended up dead.

His death deserves recognition, just as the police response deserves condemnation, not to mention substantial damages in the § 1983 suit. Whether the latter will happen remains to be seen, given that the hurdle of qualified immunity must still be surmounted. But that didn’t prevent the people of Aurora, Colorado from remembering a life needlessly lost.

“I see myself in him a lot. That easily could have been me in a lot of situations,” said Ashanti Floyd, a six-time Grammy-nominated violinist. “I’ve heard about it for a long time but I just watched the video a couple of days ago. It really made me think about life and how blessed I am.”

“I was really just looking somewhere that I would fit because I’m not one to just sit by and do nothing. I wanted to be able to back up my words with action,” said England Jr., a world-renowned violinist and artist who is signed to Michael Jordan’s ‘Jordan’ brand. “It was like, I saw myself in his story. That could have been me.”

Floyd and England Jr. heard Elijah’s story, saw the video of how he died, and knew they had to speak up.

Saturday they’ll fly to Denver from Georgia and New York to use the most powerful voices they have to fight for justice: their violins.

It’s a wonderful way to honor Elijah McClain’s memory. While some may destroy, Floyd and England Jr., together with local musicians, would create music and beauty.

But the Aurora police would not let this be.

It harkens to images of violins playing as people arrived at concentration camps, or the musicians on the deck of the Titanic, but it was Aurora, Colorado. According to the Aurora police, there was reason for their actions.

Violence and destruction by mobs might give rise to a need for police response. But a violin vigil for a young man who is dead for no reason finds absolutely no justification.

If you’re wondering what Aurora PD had to say about this, they claimed the crowd was getting unruly and some were even arming themselves and hurling projectiles at the squad. In the end … the police say only 3 people were arrested for violating lawful orders after warnings were given.

What a disgrace.

12 thoughts on “Violins In Aurora

  1. DaveL

    some were even arming themselves and hurling projectiles at the squad.

    One wonders at why a line of riot police were assembled to stand watch over a violin vigil in the first place, without which there would have been no squad to be the target of projectiles.

  2. B. McLeod

    They probably didn’t know what an introvert was, and thought he was confessing to something.

  3. Mark Brooks

    Dear Mr. Greenfield,

    Please allow me to make a few comments. My comments are NOT about condoning the police actions, either for the detaining of Elijah McClain or the response to the violin vigil. These have been adequately covered by others, such as yourself. My comments go to a deep underlying cause that has great impact on the health of many persons.

    There are some clues in your article and from other sources , that suggest a genetic inherited condition called G6PD Deficiency could very well been a substantial factor in Mr. McClain’s death. This deficiency caused a medical condition, Rhabdomyolysis to occur. The clues include, he being African American, suffered from anemia (he became cold easily and so wore ski masks), phrases used in reports, “violently struggling”, “physical exertion” and “Excited Delerium”. Plus the use of Ketamine.

    If you will permit the use of weblinks for this reply, I would be grateful. Readers can then see the underlying information
    Diagnosis and Management of G6PD Deficiency
    Prevalence of G6PD Deficiency, U.S. Armed Forces, May 2004–September 2018
    Rhabdomyolysis: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment
    Ketamine Abusers Presenting to the Emergency Department: A Case Series
    From these weblinks, the following assumptions can be verified and I ask readers to view them for much more detailed information.

    This X-linked inherited disorder commonly affects persons of African, Asian, Mediterranean, or Middle-Eastern descent. Being carried on the X chromosome means, in general, it affects males more than females. G6PD is an essential enyme in the human body and it is the rate limiting factor in the Pentose Phosphate Pathway (PPP). This is a bio-synthsis chain that protects cells against oxidative stress. The cells most affected by its deficiency are Red Blood Cells and Muscle Cells. It affects approx 400 million persons worldwide, yet it is hardly known, as if it didn’t exist.

    The prevalence of G6PD Deficiency in the USA is found at the highest levels of about 11.2% in African American males. That Mr. McClain suffered from Anemia is indicative of him being G6PD Deficiency and in the Class I Severe (Chronic) class.

    Being G6PD Deficient, anything that brings on stress to muscles can easily initiate Rhabdomyolysis, as muscle cells have very limited protection to what would be normal oxidative stress. A person in the Class 1 Severe (Chronic) would have just about no anti-oxidant protection. When muscle cells breakdown, they release into the blood stream, Myoglobin. Lactic Acid, Electrolytes etc and these substances cause a myriad of problems. The Myoglobin will scavenge the Endothelial Nitric Oxide leading to Endothelail Dysfunction. This causes vascoconstriction, platelet aggregation leading to microthrombosis and results in Hypertension. As part of the process in clearing the Myoglobin, excess Endogenous Carbon Monoxide is produced and this changes Hemoglobin to Carboxyhemoglobin, causing Hypoxia with the resulting feeling of not being able to breathe. The released Electrolytes brings on Electrolyte Imbalance resulting in Cardiac Arrhythmias and the Lactic Acid brings on Metabolic Acidosis. ALL of these are dangerous and life threatening.

    Unfortunately, the EM crew were not aware of Mr. McClain’s medical condition, that RHabdomyolysis was occuring, despite their observations of “Excited Delirium”. (I suspect they probably are not even aware of G6PD Deficiency ). They administered Ketamine, which in normal circumstances would be fine. In this case, it was like “pouring gasoline on a fire”. As you have pointed out ” He died of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital “.

    As I said at the start, the police actions cannot be excused, yet it is likely, the chokehold itself was not the cause of death. (I suspect a more detailed examination of some of these similar cases might very well find G6PD Deficiency was involved). That said, there is no doubt that police actions and responses in general are in dire need of serious corrections. Yet at the same time, the reality of G6PD Deficiency and the serious consequences that can come from it, needs to be recognised. Who knows, it could be the underlying factor behind Covid-19.

    Kind Regards
    Mark Brooks
    Malvern PO
    St. Elizabeth

    1. SHG Post author

      Having had the opportunity to read up on this when you were kind enough to explain it to me earlier, I fully appreciate (even if I don’t fully understand) the scientific merit of what you’re saying. Unfortunately, this will fly over the heads of those who want simple answers to complex questions, and they would rather let people die than face the possibility that the cops they hate weren’t as bad as they want them to be. Thanks for taking the chance of making us smarter, Judge.

  4. Mark Brooks

    Dear Mr. Greenfield

    Thank you for allowing the interactive links to be posted with the comments. As you state, “the want for simple answers to complex questions” is indeed a conundrum, especially when there is no “simple answer”. I am reminded of an ad that Caterpillar once used. The context was built around the statement, ” There are no simple solutions, only intelligent choices “.

    My wife sent me a NYT article “Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’ “. Most likely you saw it. I reviewed the article and the one autpsy report that was linked to. I am not a betting man, but I would be willing to wager $1,000 per case, that if a DNA test was done, it would show each person was G6PD Deficient. Would I get any takers ?

    Discussions on whether to screen for G6PD Deficiency in the USA has been ongoing for decades. A review of this report, will provide sufficient information on the matter

    Should we screen newborns for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency in the United States?

    What I do not understand is why African American “leaders” have not been vocal on this very important matter. The actual prevalence of G6PD Deficiency in the USA population is unknown. Reports have suggested from 4% to 7%. I used the data from the US Military Health System and extrapolated to 2%.
    That said the group MOST affected are African Americans with at least 12% in males and 4% in females.
    The consequences at the neonatal stage is serious. Hyperbilirubinemia resulting in kernicterus, together with elevated carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels are ALL indicative of brain damage.

    There was a recent national survey done in China and they found the overall level at 0.59%. The report stated ” G6PD is a common genetic disease in China, and the screening and prevention of G6PD is essential for the public health. ” If 0.59% is viewed as common and the screening is essential at this level, what should one say about the USA ?

    Sorry to burden what is a “law discussion” blog with medical issues, but these issues go on to social issues which intersect with law. As I quoted, “There are no simple solutions, only intelligent choices”.

    Kind Regards
    Mark Brooks

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