Elijah McClain: Colorado city to pay $15m to family in historic police misconduct settlement

Civil rights settlement would be highest-ever in the state and one of the largest in US history

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 19 November 2021 00:26
Aurora, Colorado, Reaches $15M Settlement With Elijah McClain's Family

The city of Aurora, Colorado will reportedly pay the family of Elijah McClain $15m following the death of the 23-year-old unarmed Black man who was tackled by police on his walk home, placed in a chokehold and injected with ketamine before suffering a cardiac arrest.

The settlement – first reported by Colorado CBS affiliate CBS4 – marks the largest police misconduct settlement in Colorado, and would be one of the largest police misconduct settlements in US history, along with the $12m wrongful death settlement following the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and the $27m settlement between Minneapolis officials and the family of George Floyd.

Mr McClain’s mother Sheneen McClain and father Lawayne Mosley filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 against Aurora and emergency responders involved in his death. Last month, attorneys announced that a settlement was reached “resolving all claims” in the federal civil rights lawsuit and that a court agreement will determine how proceeds are distributed.

The settlement amount was reached earlier this year but had not been finalised, as Mr McClain’s parents continue to negotiate the allocation of the settlement, according to court filings. Another hearing is scheduled on 19 November.

Aurora officials have not yet publicly disclosed the settlement amount but said in a statement that “city leaders are prepared to sign the agreement as soon as the family members complete a separate but related allocation process to which the city is not a party.”

“Until those issues are resolved and the agreement is in its final form, the parties cannot disclose the settlement terms,” according to a statement.

In September, two police officers, one former officer and two paramedics were charged with one count each of manslaughter and other charges in connection with Mr McClain’s death.

The officers named in the indictment are Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

Mr McClain’s family filed a 106-page lawsuit in US District Court in August 2020, alleging that “Aurora’s brutality denied Elijah almost his entire adult life, a life of bright promise both for him and for the many people with whom he would have shared his light and compassion.”

On 25 August 2019, Aurora police tackled Mr McClain to the ground, where he was pinned for 15 minutes as he cried out in distress. Officers also placed him in a carotid hold twice, cutting off blood flow to his brain and possibly causing him to lose consciousness.

When paramedics arrived, they administered a “therapeutic” dose of ketamine.

He suffered a cardiac arrest and died on 30 August 2019.

Body-mounted cameras were not attached to the officers during their confrontation with Mr McClain, but audio was recorded.

In September, a Colorado state investigation sparked by his death found that the Aurora Police Department “has a pattern and practice of violating state and federal law through racially biased policing”.

The 112-page report discovered “a consistent pattern of illegal behavior by Aurora Police, which can be witnessed at many levels of the department”, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office said in a statement on 15 September.

The agency “does not create and oversee appropriate expectations for responsible behavior, which leads to the use of excessive force and the violation of the civil rights of its residents,” the report found.

Aurora police have used force against people of colour over two and a half times more than against white residents. Black people make up nearly half of all cases in which police use force, despite Black residents making up only 15 per cent of the city’s population, according to the report, which cited police data.

Investigators also reported that Aurora paramedics administered ketamine 22 times for so-called “excited delirium” cases between January 2019 and June 2020, marking a “pattern and practice of administering ketamine illegally.” Aurora Fire Rescue has suspended use of ketamine.

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