​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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less