A Colorado city has reportedly agreed to pay $15 million to the family of Elijah McClain, the man who was filmed being forced into a chokehold and injected with ketamine before his 2019 death during an arrest.
An anonymous source revealed the news to The Denver Post, which reported that the settlement involving the city of Aurora was agreed upon in July but has not been finalized as McClain’s parents discussed how much each would receive. A court hearing regarding the settlement is scheduled for Friday.
“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,” city officials said in a statement to KCNS.
McClain’s family filed a federal lawsuit in August 2020. According to The Post, Aurora’s public liability insurance is capped at $10 million for police-related claims. As a result, the city will pay out the remainder through their general fund.
In August 2019, Aurora police officers responding to a suspicious person call detained McClain, 23, as he walked home from a corner store. During the 20-minute encounter, officers put McClain in a carotid hold and violently restrained him with an armbar and their knees, the federal lawsuit alleged.
“Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain was heard saying in police’s bodycam footage.
A paramedic allegedly injected McClain with 500mg of ketamine after he was handcuffed. The panel’s 157-page report stated that the paramedic failed to adequately assess McClain before administering ketamine, which is typically used before and during surgery or a medical procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The dosage administered to McClain was based on the “grossly inaccurate” assumption that McClain was 50 pounds heavier, city officials wrote in a February 2021 report.
McClain, who went into cardiac arrest during the encounter, died days after being declared brain dead. McClain’s autopsy was inconclusive, but the federal lawsuit stated that “intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery contributed to [his] death.”
Aurora’s independent probe also determined the responding officers had no basis to detain, frisk, or use a chokehold on McClain. In their report, the three-person panel called the stop “questionable,” and asserted that the officers never stated what crime McClain had committed or what crime they thought he was about to commit.
The city’s independent report also scrutinized the Aurora Police Department’s investigation of McClain’s death. The panel wrote that the department’s Major Crimes Unit, which conducted an internal probe, “stretched the record to exonerate” the three arresting officers — and failed to conduct an objective investigation.
“The officers’ statements on the scene and in subsequent recorded interviews suggest a violent and relentless struggle,” the report stated.
“The limited video, and the audio from the body-worn cameras, reveal Mr. McClain surrounded by officers, all larger than he, crying out in pain, apologizing, explaining himself, and pleading with the officers.”
In September, three Aurora police officers and two Fire Rescue paramedics were charged in Adams County with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for McClain’s death. The officers charged are Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema, while the paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Lieutenant Peter Cichuniec.
Despite the city’s scathing report, District Attorney Dave Young said in November 2019 that the three Aurora police officers would not face criminal charges in connection with McClain’s death. However, the city’s independent investigators later determined the internal report was biased and unjustly influenced the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and Aurora police’s force review board’s decision to clear the officers of wrongdoing.
However, in June 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor in McClain’s case. The unprecedented move resulted in Weiser’s office opening a statewide grand jury investigation into McClain’s deadly 2019 arrest.
Last year, Rosenblatt was fired for allegedly responding “haha” to a photo message that showed his colleagues reenacting a chokehold used on McClain at his memorial site.
The $15 million settlement is one of the biggest police misconduct settlements in the United States.
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[Featured image: Elijah McClain/GoFundMe]