NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett on Wednesday broke down on-air while reading the final words uttered by Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man described as a “gentle soul” who was killed in 2019 after he was tackled and assaulted by police.
A Colorado grand jury returned a 32-count indictment on Wednesday against two police officers, one ex-cop, and two paramedics in the death of McClain. Each of the five defendants face one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, along with additional charges of second-degree assault.
Filling in as a host on MSNBC, Bennett brought on former federal prosecutor Paul Butler and criminal defense attorney David Henderson to discuss the details of the case and the charges filed.
After saying there was “no reason for Elijah McClain to be stopped in the first place,” Bennett pointed out that McClain was given a massive dose of ketamine after the officers had forced him to the ground and placed carotid holds on him.
“This kid was 5'6" and weighed 140 pounds and they gave him enough sedative that you would give to someone who weighed 220 pounds,” Bennett added. “And his final words are haunting and tragic.”
With his voice trembling, the MSNBC host took a moment to gather himself before reciting McClain’s pleas to the officers and paramedics just before he was rendered unconscious following an 18-minute assault. (McClain was declared brain-dead shortly after and removed from life support.)
“Take your time,” one guest intoned.
“He said ‘I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here,’” Bennett said, choking up. “‘My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?’”
Turning back to his guests, the NBC News reporter then emotionally asked: “If Elijah Mcclain isn’t safe, who is? Who is, David Henderson, Paul Butler? Who is safe? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
After Henderson wondered aloud what it means “when the people who are supposed to protect us are the most quick to resort to violence,” Bennett wrapped up the segment.
“Paul Butler and David Henderson, I appreciate you two brothers more than you know,” a still emotional Bennett said as he signed off.