Colorado prosecutor: 'I stand by my decision'

Prosecutor Dave Young defended his decision not to charge police officers for the death of Elijah McClain, saying “force was reasonable.”
8:48 | 06/30/20

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Transcript for Colorado prosecutor: 'I stand by my decision'
The investigation into the death last year of Elijah McClain the 23 year old unarmed black man stop by Colorado police while walking home from corner store. Over the weekend thousands protested in Aurora Colorado demanding answers. Back in August of 2019. The plane was wearing a mask on a warm night and was reported to be suspicious. Three police officers confronted him as shown in this body camera footage. Stop pirate stuff you could you being suspicious. Maclean seems confused about why he's being stopped and officers heard shouting. The McLean tried to reach for another officer's gun and then McClain was tackled and held in a choke hold. Saying he can't grieve. Paramedics gave McLean high dose of sedatives and on the way to the hospital Maclean had a heart attack. He died several days later Colorado district attorney Dave young decided not to charge the three police officers with the claims death. A decision that is now under intense scrutiny last week the governor of Colorado reopen the case and assigned a special prosecutor to investigate. Tonight we are joined by Dave young they DA who found it was insufficient evidence to charge these officers. Thank you so much for your time mr. young we appreciate you joining us. You've deputy here so we want this to start out with your initial reaction when you saw the video did you ever think that criminal charges may be warranted. Yes of course when I initially saw the video based on the totality of the media held. My initial impression was that it was academy that perhaps cost mister McLean stat. I was until I received the forensic autopsy report. That I learned that that fact was not the cause of death in fact we don't know what the cause of this replaced was. And wind that report came backing conclusive did you ever consider having. An independent autopsy performed at that time. Now. We had a friends and pathologists to forms are autopsy easier. And I would disagree with the assessment that it was inconclusive I think it was very conclusive on many aspects. The certainly cause a death was not able to be determined. And as a prosecutor I have to prove that element beyond a reasonable doubt it on a charge any form homicide in the state of Colorado. Though many have seen it these videos and they believe that that the force against McClain was unjustified. In your initial letter you describe Elijah McClain as quote violently struggling with the officers and that quote. There was no evidence to dispute the perception of the officers in the need to escalate the use of force and what the rest do you feel that there was this. Violent struggle. Well I think it's certainly escalated as a contact mr. McClain started. This whole incident started with a 911 call we're a roar pleased to partner responding to a 911 call. And they saw someone matching the description of the person it was described by the 911 call which deputy mission reclaim. And they approached mister McLean. They had no idea. He had headphones on they hadn't they had no information about even who he was at the time. All they had was an individual wearing any ski mask in the middle August when it was very hot outside. And so they approached. To investigate to see what was happening. Mister McLean didn't respond to their commands to stop. And then and escalated to the point where they wanted to pat him down to make sure that he did not happening weapons for their own safety. To the point where mr. McLean stated. Words to the effect that I want to get my power back. And as the officers then one of the officers said he's going for bigger. And that's when the force escalated. To the point where it really why we're having this congress. And so essentially you would say that a chokehold was warranted at that time based on that. Actually not I would never say that. I think I would say that force was reasonable. And I certainly cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of force that was used. Was not reasonable under the circumstances of this investigation. Now in the state of Colorado criminally negligent homicide is defined as unintended deaths caused by careless behavior was added all adoption freeing did you consider pursuing lesser charges. Yeah every crime was an option than cruelly negligent homicide certainly was there. But as you alluded to a key element to criminal negligent homicide is that the defendant or suspects or the target of the investigation. Would it have been caused the death of another individual. And I cannot prove that beyond a reasonable doubt therefore cannot file that particular type of charge in core law. The do you believe that the officers' actions ultimately led to mr. McClain staff. Dad I don't know mr. Klain had a serious heart condition. And I personally believe that that's what led to his death. And so I cannot prove one way or the other the actions caused his death. NN as you know many people are now second guessing. The decisions picking apart of that videotape do you stand by your decision not to charge the office. Here's. Yes I stand by my decision in its unfortunate that. You know people feel that by voicing their opinions that that's gonna change the facts on the wall of a certain investigation. Every day in my office review criminal allegations to file charges or not to file charges or return those cases back for further investigation. We have to make that decision based on the facts that are front of us and what the law is at the time of the allegations. There is now a growing demand a petition for you to resign. Can you understand why people may want you to step down and is it at all something that you may consider doing. Now I'm not gonna consider doing that it's unfortunate that people all our. Acting on their emotions. And this investigation has been open to the public. Since November of last year. Anyone can do an open records request for the Aurora police department and look at the entirety of the investigation. And if you choose to you can look and see what the lawless. In that you want to look at the investigation in the wall. And talk to me about whether or not I can prove my case beyond a reasonable doubt I will listen. If you're gonna act on emotions. Or you're gonna need political and act on others' emotions. I don't have a lot of patience for that because I'm in improving business I've got to have facts. Not got to apply those facts to the wall that I haven't found him before I make decisions. It's. Yeah it seems like one and compelling moment in the video that that I've heard kind of this outcry is that he too said I can't breeze. And at that point someone who's gotten wondering if you and agrees someone who says I can't breathe if they seem to be powerless at least in that moment. And that any reasonable officer might at that point decide. That that their actions are. Potentially. Gonna lead to it to harm and what does that. Idea play could you talk about people talking about being emotions emotional on that playing a role but when you hear somebody saying I can't breathe. Dep doesn't change anything in your mind. Look I don't condone the officers' actions out there in fact I wished I would've done things differently. But I cannot I don't have the ability. To go back into time in say look just follow him home. Jason served him for awhile. What I have to do is apt to look at the facts are sodomy. I have to look at those facts. As a police officer's perspective because I know the investigations. I know the tragedy. This death to mr. McClain and his family. But at the time the officers knew nothing about mister McLean. All the news is there is a 911 call we need to investigate a suspicious person. They went to go do that in things escalated to where we all know happened right. But look. Absolutely if someone saying I can't read. Do it just get all the him. But again. Then I have no indication. Led to the cause a mistress claims that in fact he had no injuries to his neck. So regardless of the choke hold her carotid hold or whatever you want to call it. There are no injuries to support that that would have led to his death mr. young thank you so much for your time we appreciate it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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