*The family of Elijah McClain is relieved that an independent investigation released on Monday found that Aurora police had no legal reason to stop and physically restrain him during the 2019 confrontation that resulted in his death.
The 23-year-old had been walking from a local convenience store when he was confronted by three white officers on August 24. He reportedly explained that he was on his way home, but they accused him of acting strange, placed him in a chokehold, and pinned him to the ground.
McClain started vomiting and told the officers he was having difficulty breathing. He lost consciousness for 15 minutes and the officers called for assistance. Firefighters and an ambulance responded to the scene and pumped McClain with 500 milligrams of the drug ketamine in an attempt to sedate him, claiming he was in an agitated state.
McClain suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma. He was taken to a hospital where he was declared brain dead three days later. He was removed from life support on August 30, 2019.
APD officers identified as Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema responded to the 911 call by someone who described McClain as a “suspicious person” despite not being armed or having committed a crime. He was wearing an open-face ski mask due to his anemia, which would sometimes make him feel cold, his family said. Police defended the officers’ actions because McClain’s face was covered.
The Denver Post reports that the independent probe determined that the officers approached McClain without accusing him of committing a crime. “This decision had ramifications for the rest of the encounter,” the report states.
The three officers were not charged for killing McClain. “In addition, the report of the Major Crime Unit stretched the record to exonerate the officers rather than present a neutral version of the facts,” the report states.
The investigation also faulted the paramedics for accepting whatever the officers had to say about McClain’s behavior, prompting them to administer an amount of ketamine that exceeded the acceptable dosage for McClain’s his weight.
“Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officers’ impression that Mr. McClain had excited delirium without corroborating that impression through meaningful observations or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain,” the report said. “In addition, EMS administered a ketamine dosage based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s size. Higher doses can carry a higher risk of sedation complications, for which this team was clearly not prepared.”
In response to the report, Elijah’s mother Sheneen told CNN that she has known all along her son was a victim.
“It was overwhelming knowing my son was innocent the entire time and just waiting on the facts and proof of it,” she said. “My son’s name is cleared now, he’s no longer labeled a suspect. He is actually a victim.”
McClain’s family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Aurora, Colorado police and the paramedics involved with his death.
“We have filed this civil rights lawsuit to demand justice for Elijah McClain, to hold accountable the Aurora officials, police officers, and paramedics responsible for his murder, and to force the City of Aurora to change its longstanding pattern of brutal and racist policing,” the family said in a statement released by their attorney Mari Newman.