Elijah McClain’s family reaches settlement in federal civil rights lawsuit over 2019 death

Aurora, Colorado reaches agreement with family of unarmed Black man who was tackled by police and injected with ketamine in 2019

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 19 October 2021 17:10

Related video: Three officers and two paramedics indicted for Elijah McClain’s death

Elijah McClain’s family has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit following the 2019 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 heart attack.

The city of Aurora, Colorado reached an unspecified settlement with his family on 18 October, according to attorneys and a statement from a city spokesperson.

An attorney for Elijah McClain’s mother Sheneed confirmed in a statement that the settlement is “resolving all claims raised in her federal civil rights lawsuit”, and that a court agreement will determine how proceeds are distributed.

The attorney for LaWayne Mosley, Elijah’s father, said in a statement that “nothing will bring back his son Elijah, who he loved dearly, but he is hopeful that this settlement with Aurora, and the criminal charges against the officers and medics who killed Elijah, will allow his family and the community to begin to heal”.

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 heart attack 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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