Elijah McClain’s final words are synonymous with the tragic case that led to 1 officer’s conviction


BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — As the death of Elijah McClain became a rallying point at police reform rallies in Colorado and across the county in 2020, the young man’s final words became synonymous with the tragic case.

Prosecutors also played them during a trial for two officers charged in his death that culminated Thursday when jurors convicted one officer of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault and acquitted another.

“I can’t breathe,” he said as police pinned him to the ground on a summer night in 2019. “My name is Elijah McClain… “I’m just different! I’m just different. That’s all! That’s all I was doing!”

Here are excerpts from more than three hours of police body camera footage from the encounter with law enforcement and paramedics on Aug. 24, 2019, in the Denver suburb of Aurora. It started after a 911 caller reported that McClain looked “sketchy.” After being pinned down and given the sedative ketamine, he died three days later.

A third officer and paramedics involved in the death are awaiting trial.



— Officer: Do me a favor. Stop right there. Hey, stop right there. Stop. Stop.

— Elijah McClain: I have a right (crosstalk).

— Officer: Stop. Stop. I have a right to stop you, because you’re being suspicious.

— Elijah McClain: Well, okay.

— Officer: Turn around. Turn around.

— Elijah McClain: I see your (inaudible).

— Officer: Turn around. Stop. Stop tensing up, dude.

— Elijah McClain: Let go of me.

— Officer: Stop tensing up, bro. Stop tensing up.

— Elijah McClain: Let go of me.

— Officer: Stop tensing up.

— Elijah McClain: Let me go.

— Officer: Stop tensing up.

— Elijah McClain: No, let go of me.

— Elijah McClain: No. I am an introvert!

— Officer: Stop tensing up.

— Elijah McClain: Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.

— Officer: Stop tensing up.

— Elijah McClain: Stop. Stop!

— Officer: Relax.

— Elijah McClain: I’m going home!

— Officer: Relax, or I’m going to have to change this situation.

— Elijah McClain: Leave me alone!

— Officer: Stop.



— Elijah McClain: You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen. Now let go of me.

— Officer: (inaudible) Let’s get over to grass there. Lay you down (inaudible).

— Elijah McClain: I intend to take my power back because I intend to be (inaudible) I get to be (inaudible).

— Officer: (crosstalk) He just grabbed your gun, dude.

— Officer: (crosstalk) Stop, dude! (inaudible). Get us some more units. We’re fighting him.



— Elijah McClain: I can’t breathe!

— Officer 1: Get him on back, he’s getting cuffs.

— Officer 2: (Inaudible) In a bar-hammer.

— Officer 1: Stop!

— Officer 2: Stop!

— Elijah McClain: I can’t breathe, please stop!



— Elijah McClain: My name is Elijah McClain!

— Officer: We had to use carotid.

— Elijah McClain: That’s all I was doing, I was just going home! (inaudible). I’m an introvert, and I’m different!

— Officer: I heard some snoring.

— Elijah McClain: (Inaudible) I’m just different! I’m just different. That’s all! That’s all I was doing!

— Officer: It was actually Rosenblatt’s. He reached for your gun, dude.

— Elijah McClain: I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why would you (inaudible) me? I don’t do (inaudible). I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat. But I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t judge people or anything. I try to live in secret (crosstalk). And I respect all life.

—Officer: When we showed him up. When we showed up, he was wearing a ski mask.

— Elijah McClain: (crosstalk) Forgive me! All I was trying to do was become better.

— Officer: We started it because he reached for Rosie’s gun.

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