An independent investigation accuses police and paramedics of wrongdoing in the death of Elijah McClain.
Back on Aug. 24, 2019, Aurora, Colorado police started an incident with 23-year-old Black man Elijah McClain. Police stopped the young man in Aurora after receiving calls of a suspicious person being in the area. The incident led to McClain’s death. Now, a probe shows alleged wrong decisions police and medical officials made during the incident.
The investigation findings were released on Monday, and one of the first issues it highlights is how police were not justified in using force to detain McClain. NBC News also reports that the paramedics who responded sedated him with ketamine “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation” of McClain, according to a panel of medical and legal experts appointed by the City Council, which commissioned the report.
The investigation also states that McClain’s initial stop was questionable, as none of the officers articulated a crime that they thought Mr. McClain had committed, was committing or was about to commit. “This decision had ramifications for the rest of the encounter.”
Police claim McClain was in a state of excited delirium and thus was a threat to officers’ lives. During the altercation, police officers put McClain in a chokehold, and paramedics gave him ketamine. “Based on the record available to the panel, we were not able to identify sufficient evidence that Mr. McClain was armed and dangerous to justify a pat-down search,” the report said. “The panel also notes that one officer’s explanation that that Aurora officers are trained to ‘take action before it escalates’ does not meet the constitutional requirement of reasonable suspicion to conduct (a stop or frisk).” The panel found that the amount of ketamine given to McClain, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound man, was suitable for a man who weighs 190 pounds.
“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.” NBC News reports McClain was removed from life support after losing consciousness on Aug. 30.
Aurora fire and emergency medical service officials claimed paramedics’ actions were “consistent and aligned with our established protocols.” Since McClain’s passing, his family has filed a federal lawsuit naming the city, multiple offices, two paramedics, and a fire department director responsible for McClain’s death, saying they allegedly violated the young man’s civil rights. The McClain family’s attorney, Mari Newman, said she is in full support of the family’s allegations. “This is a broadside on the city of Aurora from top to bottom, beginning with the illegal stop that set the wheels in motion and the illegal conduct every step of the way,” Newman told NBC News on Monday.