​Elijah McClain played violin for lonely kittens. His last words to police are devastating.

Elijah McClain was a massage therapist who played violin for shelter kittens on his lunch break in his hometown of Aurora, Colorado, because he thought the animals were lonely. If that detail alone doesn't conjure up a picture of a gentle soul, Colorado Music described McClain as a young man who was "quirky, a pacifist, a vegetarian, enjoyed running, and known to put a smile on everyone's face."

According to The Cut, McClain's sister says he sometimes wore a ski/runner's mask because he was anemic and would often get cold. One night last August, he was walking home from the convenience store with his mask on when the police approached him, responding to a call about "a suspicious man" in the area. What ensued was "a struggle" according to police, which was only partially caught on body camera, as all of the officers' body cameras allegedly fell off during the incident.


McClain was held in a carotid hold, a controversial restraint technique banned in some cities for its potential danger, and was also given a shot of ketamine by paramedics. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and died there three days later, after having been declared brain dead.

He was unarmed. He was only 23. And his last words as the officers held him down are heartbreaking.

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The full body camera footage of the entire evening's events was posted on YouTube by the Aurora Police Department in November, three months after McClain's death. (Discretion is advised.)

Body Worn Camera Regarding the In-Custody Death of Elijah McClain www.youtube.com

After the body camera footage was released, according to the Sentinel, District Attorney Dave Young sent a letter to Aurora police chief Nick Metz stating, "Based on the investigation presented and the applicable Colorado law, there is no reasonable likelihood of success of proving any state crimes beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Therefore, no state criminal charges will be filed as a result of this incident."

The officers were cleared of all wrongdoing.

However, the public outcry over the case has grown into a tsunami of calls for accountability. More than 2.2 million people have signed a Change.org petition calling for a more in-depth investigation into McClain's death.

On June 9, City Manager Jim Twombly agreed to an independent investigation of McClain's death. But even that investigation has hit snags, as the initial attorney commissioned to lead the investigation was a former police officer who specialized in defending police departments in liability cases.

"Unfortunately, an attorney with a long career in law enforcement that specializes in defending municipal police departments from liability claims doesn't qualify, in our minds, as a neutral review," the Aurora city council said in a statement.

Some policy changes have taken effect in Aurora this month. According to CBS Local in Denver, Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has announced that officers can no longer use the carotid hold, they must give warnings before shooting, must intervene if they see an offer using excessive force, and relieve other officers when a use-of-force incident occurs. They will also be trained to not assume a person is suspicious based off of a 911 call.

Victims of police brutality don't need to be angels. What's wrong is wrong. But when a demonstrably tender and sweet soul like Elijah McClain is killed from a police encounter and no wrongdoing is found, it's long past time to examine the rules that govern the entire system. No one in their right mind can say this young man shouldn't be alive right now, playing violin for lonely kittens on his lunch hour.

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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