Aurora

Charges Dropped Against Daxx Dalton, Last Elijah McClain Protester

Protesters in Aurora in June 2020 demanding justice for Elijah McClain.
Protesters in Aurora in June 2020 demanding justice for Elijah McClain. Michael Emery Hecker
The 17th Judicial District has dropped the remaining charges against Daxx Dalton. The 25-year-old Auroran was the last person to still have a case pending in Adams County connected with protests demanding justice for Elijah McClain.

Dalton had been charged with false imprisonment, engaging in a riot and obstructing government operations; in a November 4 motion to dismiss, Hollie K. Wilkinson, chief deputy district attorney, noted that the prosecution could not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Dalton and fellow protesters had gathered outside an Aurora police station on the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus in the summer of 2020, protesting the police's handling of McClain. Dalton was accused of tying the doors to the police station closed during the protest; that's what led to the false imprisonment charge.

“It's obviously frustrating, because we had asked them to drop this back in August of 2021,” says attorney Jessica Corey, Dalton’s public defender. “It is truly the right result, but it should have been back when the other protesters' cases were dismissed.”

Adams County charges against other protesters were dismissed in March 2021. The protests that resulted in those charges came nearly a year after McClain's August 2019 death following a violent encounter with Aurora police and paramedics, who injected him with enough ketamine for someone twice his size. After a brief investigation, then-17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young said the officers involved did nothing wrong, but protests after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police brought new attention to McClain's treatment.

Ultimately, Governor Jared Polis asked Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate; in September 2021, the AG issued a 32-count indictment against the officers and paramedics involved. Corey says that protesters like Dalton spurred that indictment by legitimately exercising their right to protest.

"There has been great discussion of whether or not the actions taken on July 3, 2020, were legal or not," Dalton says. "I myself do not believe any laws were broken that night, but this discussion is merely a distraction. Legal or not, the actions taken outside of District 1 were a necessary step toward justice. Many parties involved believe that lines were crossed on that night, and I would like to remind these parties that those lines were drawn by an oppressive force, and crossing them would have been necessary."

Dalton’s trial was scheduled to begin November 28, after being delayed in June. At that time, Dalton agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial.

Between then and now, the prosecutors and Dalton’s legal representation went back and forth on a potential plea deal. Initially, Corey says, the best offer from prosecutors involved Dalton pleading guilty to the top charge, false imprisonment, and potentially receive probation. But Dalton and Corey held firm, and the prosecution determined it could not prove that allegation.

That didn't surprise Dalton, who wonders how someone could possibly imprison someone in their own building — let alone police officers.

"I hold no gratitude toward the office for their decision to dismiss the case more than two years later," he says. "Despite the efforts of myself and many others, the Aurora Police Department remains a vile and racist 'Klan of Killer Kops.' I hold no sympathy for those who were allegedly 'imprisoned' inside of District 1, as they were, and continue to be, complacent with the murder of Elijah McClain and many others."

The three police officers and two paramedics charged in connection with McClain's death will be arraigned on January 20, postponed from the original November 4 date. At that time, they will have a chance to enter pleas before a trial is set.
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Catie Cheshire is a staff writer at Westword. After getting her undergraduate degree at Regis University, she went to Arizona State University for a master's degree. She missed everything about Denver -- from the less-intense sun to the food, the scenery and even the bus system. Now she's reunited with Denver and writing news for Westword.
Contact: Catie Cheshire

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