The Colorado police and paramedics who stopped Elijah McClain committed a number of crucial mistakes that resulted in the young man’s death in 2019. The results of an independent investigation were announced on Monday.
Aurora police had no justification for stopping McClain or using force, and the paramedics who responded sedated him with ketamine “without doing more than a brief visual observation,” according to the 23-year-old black city council-appointed experts commissioning the report gifts.
McClain was stopped in Aurora on August 24, 2019 by officers who answered a call reporting a suspicious person in the area.
McClain’s initial stop was questionable because “none of the officers articulated a crime that they believed Mr. McClain had committed, committed, or intended to commit,” the report reads.
“This decision had consequences for the rest of the encounter,” the results said.
A stranglehold was used during the confrontation and he was injected with ketamine. Authorities believed he was in a state of excited delirium and a threat to officers, the authorities said.
“Based on the records available to the panel, we could not find sufficient evidence that Mr McClain was armed and dangerous to warrant a pat-down search,” the report said. “The panel also notes that an official’s statement that Aurora officials are trained to take action before they escalate does not meet the constitutional requirements of reasoned suspicion of conduct (stop or search).”
The 5-foot-7, 140-pound McClain was given ketamine, which the panel found would have been suitable for a man weighing 190 pounds.
“Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officials’ impression that Mr McClain caused the delirium without substantiating that impression by meaningful observations or diagnostic tests by Mr McClain,” the report said.
“In addition, EMS administered a dose of ketamine based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s height. Higher doses may put a higher risk of sedation complications that this team was clearly unprepared for.”
McClain passed out and was released on August 30th.
The young man’s death gained national interest that summer amid the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when millions of Americans took to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
Monday’s report, however, stopped blaming “implicit bias” for McClain’s death.
“In considering this single incident, the panel does not have sufficient information to determine what role, if any, the bias played in the Aurora police and rescue workers’ encounter with McClain,” the city-commissioned experts said.
“However, research shows that factors such as increased perceptions of threats, perceptions of exceptional strength, perceptions of higher pain tolerance, and incorrect perceptions of age and height can all indicate a bias.”
Over the summer, however, Colorado became the first state to end so-called “qualified immunity,” a principle of law that protects law enforcement officers and other government employees in general from being held personally responsible in civil courts.
Earlier, Aurora Fire and Ambulance officials said a preliminary review found the doctors’ actions against the night police where McClain was arrested are “consistent and in line with our established protocols.”
A spokesman for the Aurora Police Department declined to comment on Monday, while a fire department representative could not be reached immediately.
Union representatives for police and fire service workers were also not immediately available for comments.
Aurora City Council will meet at 5:00 p.m. MST to discuss the results. Aurora city manager Jim Twombly said city officials were digging through the report Monday morning.
McClain’s family filed a federal lawsuit last year calling the city, several police officers, two paramedics and a fire department medical director for alleged violations of the young man’s civil rights.
Family attorney Mari Newman said Monday’s report supported plaintiffs’ allegations.
“This is a broadside of the city of Aurora from top to bottom, starting with the illegal stop that set the wheels in motion and illegal behavior every step of the way,” Newman told NBC News Monday.
Monday’s report also criticized law enforcement in the city well after McClain’s death.
The department’s homicide squad “failed to ask basic, critical questions justifying the use of force,” and the Force Review Board’s review was “sketchy and summary at best,” the report said. The incident hasn’t even been reviewed by internal affairs, the panel said.
“Without a detailed examination of the justification for the use of force during the incident, important opportunities to identify problems and reform practices were lost,” the report said.
The officers and medics involved in McClain’s death have not been prosecuted. An autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death.
“This report confirms what we said from the start,” McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said in a statement. “The Aurora police and doctors who murdered my son must be held accountable.”
Diana Dasrath contributed to this.