Independent investigators in Elijah McClain's death issue scathing report

Scathing independent report slams police, paramedics, homicide investigators in Elijah McClain's death

2/23/2021 3:28:00 AM

An independent review of the death of Elijah McClain alleges the officers involved had no reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk him in the first place.

Scathing independent report slams police, paramedics, homicide investigators in Elijah McClain's death

What happened to Elijah McClain? Case draws new attention amid nationwide protestsMcClain was killed nearly a year ago in Colorado after police responded to a call about a suspicious person. Having anemia, he'd worn a ski mask to stay warm while going to the convenience store.

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Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty Images, FILEAn independent review of thedeath of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man who died in Colorado after being placed in a carotid hold by police and injected with ketamine, was made public on Monday and alleges the officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk him in the first place.

The report, ordered in July by the Aurora City Council, also concluded that the investigation of McClain's death by the Aurora Police Department's major crimes unit was badly flawed and alleged the detectives"stretched the record to exonerate the officers rather than present a neutral version of the facts.”

"This case is a textbook example of law enforcement’s disparate and racist treatment of Black men," McClain's family and their lawyers said in a joint statement issued following the report's release."Aurora’s continued failure to acknowledge the wrongdoing of its employees only exacerbates the problem."

MORE: What happened to Elijah McClain? Protests help bring new attention to his deathAccording to the statement, McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain,"is relieved that the truth surrounding the death of her son is finally coming out," adding that had he lived, he would have celebrated his 25th birthday this week.

"This Report -- with its stark and unequivocal indictment of Aurora officials’ conduct -- is not based on new, revelatory evidence," the statement reads."It is based on evidence that Aurora has had in its possession all along. Yet, at every stage, Aurora has defended its officials for their blatantly unlawful actions and refused to discipline anyone involved in Elijah’s death."

Rich Fury/Getty Images, FILEPeople gather at a candlelight vigil to demand justice for Elijah McClain on the one year anniversary of his death at The Laugh Factory on Aug. 24, 2020 in West Hollywood, Calif.Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement that the city welcomed how"comprehensive and thorough the investigators were" throughout the investigation."We are currently reviewing their report and look forward to hearing additional context during their presentation before we comment further. City management will work with the Mayor and City Council in coming days and weeks to assure the appropriate next steps are taken."

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The Aurora City Council plans to hold a special study session Monday night with the panel to which it gave autonomous authority to probe every detail of the 2019 death that prompted massive protests in Colorado and throughout the nation.There was no immediate comment from the Aurora Police Department.

The review was led by consultant Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs."The body-worn camera audio, limited video, and (Aurora Police Department) Major Crime’s interviews with the officers tell two contrasting stories. The officers’ statements on the scene and in subsequent recorded interviews suggest a violent and relentless struggle," the report, which was obtained by ABC News, 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."

Three white police officers stopped McClain on Aug. 24, 2019, after a 911 caller reported McClain, who had autism, was walking down a street wearing a ski mask and acting suspiciously. The investigative panel found that the officers had no probable cause to detain and frisk him.

Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt were never prosecuted. In June, Dave Young, the former district attorney for Adams and Broomfield Counties, said he could not file criminal charges against the officers because the evidence was inconclusive as to whether their actions caused McClain's death and because prosecutors could not"disprove the officers' reasonable belief in the necessity to use force."

MORE: Colorado attorney general opens grand jury investigation on death of Elijah McClainBut the independent investigation alleged the officers, specifically Woodyard, quickly escalated the encounter despite having no reason to believe McClain had engaged in any type of criminal behavior.

"Upon review of the evidence available to the Panel, Officer Woodyard’s decision to turn what may have been a consensual encounter with Mr. McClain into an investigatory stop -- in fewer than ten seconds -- did not appear to be supported by any officer’s reasonable suspicion that Mr. McClain was engaged in criminal activity. This decision had ramifications for the rest of the encounter," the report stated.

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McClain was walking home in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, after buying iced tea at a corner store, when he was stopped by the three officers.In post-incident interviews with major crime investigators, Woodyard explained that he wanted to frisk McClain for weapons"based on him having a ski mask on" in the middle of the night, though McClain gave no indication that he was armed, according to the report.

McClain's family said he was wearing the ski mask because he suffered from anemia, which made him feel cold."We were not able to identify sufficient evidence that Mr. McClain was armed and dangerous in order to justify a pat-down search," the report stated.

Woodyard and his two colleagues moved McClain by force to the grass and restrained him, according to the report."The responding officers applied pain compliance techniques and restraints to Mr. McClain continuously from the first moments of the encounter until he was taken away on a gurney," the report stated.

Andy Cross/MediaNewsGroup/The Denver Post via Getty Images, FILERashiaa Veal holds a sign of her cousin, Elijah McClain at a press conference in front of the Aurora Municipal Center, Oct.1, 2019.The independent investigators found that officers applied wrist locks on McClain and put their knees on his large muscle groups and joints.

"The officers also sat or kneeled on Mr. McClain, and one officer threatened to have a dog bite him," according to the report.During the struggle, Woodyard allegedly placed McClain in a carotid hold, less hazardous than a chokehold, the report said. But the investigators wrote they did not see"evidence of the officers’ perception of a threat that would justify Officer Woodyard’s carotid hold, which caused Mr. McClain to either partially or fully lose consciousness."

Paramedics with Aurora Fire Rescue responded to the incident and injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful drug often used to induce anesthesia, in what they claimed was an attempt to sedate him. The evidence reviewed by the panel, including the body camera video, alleged that the paramedics administered the sedative without first examining McClain. The panel found that McClain was given 500 milligrams of ketamine"based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s size."

"Despite his apparent distress and the fact that a carotid control hold had been applied, the body-worn camera footage does not reflect any attempt by Aurora Fire to examine or question Mr. McClain before the administration of ketamine," according to the report."At the time of the injection, Mr. McClain had not moved or made any sounds for about one minute."

MORE: Colorado health official investigating the use of ketamine in wake of Elijah McClain's deathThe panel alleged the paramedics accepted what it said was the officers’ impression that McClain was exhibiting excited delirium, a syndrome in which a subject displays wild agitation and violent behavior. The panel wrote the paramedics drew the conclusion"without corroborating that impression through meaningful observation or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain."

McClain lost consciousness during the encounter and was taken to a hospital, where he died three days later. The Adams County coroner ruled the cause of McClain’s death to be undetermined, a decision Young said factored heavily in his decision not to file charges in the case.

"I don't condone any of the officers' actions out there. In fact, I wish they would have done things differently. If someone is saying 'I can't breathe,' get off of him. Do it. Just get off of him," Young told ABC News in June."But, again, I have no indication that led to the cause of Mr. McClain's death."

The independent investigators also faulted the Aurora Police Department's Major Crimes' investigation and the report the unit presented to then-District Attorney Young, alleging detectives"failed to present a neutral, objective version of the facts and seemingly ignored contrary evidence.'' The report goes on to allege the Major Crimes detectives"failed to ask basic, critical questions about the justification for the use of force."

''The Aurora Police Department’s Major Crime/Homicide Unit investigation of the death of Mr. McClain raised serious concerns for the Panel and revealed significant weaknesses in the Department’s accountability systems,'' according to the report.

MORE: Colorado police officers fired for recreating chokehold in photos at Elijah McClain memorialThe report made several key recommendations, including that the Aurora Police Department undertake a thorough review of its training and supervision of officers with respect to ascertaining reasonable suspicion and probable cause. The panel also recommended the department overhaul its use-of-force policy and increase the training of officers on de-escalation techniques.

Since McClain's death, the Aurora Fire Rescue has banned the use of ketamine by paramedics. But the report recommends a thorough review of the department's protocols, policies and training related to patient sedation"to ensure that a complete pre-sedation assessment by paramedics is completed."

McClain's family filed afederal wrongful death lawsuitin August against the Aurora Police Department and the Aurora Fire and Rescue Department. The lawsuit is pending.The city responded to the lawsuit in December, asking that the suit be dismissed, contending McClain's death was not caused by deliberate and discriminatory actions by the police officers.

Read more: ABC News »

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The police officers that assaulted Elijah and the paramedic who administered the lethal dose of Ketamine must be held accountable! They are guilty of abusing their power over a vulnerable person that they were sworn to protect! This was murder and should not go unpunished! Shit happens That is so wrong. Pleased it is going to a higher court. Using ketamine is utterly ridiculous. They did not need it for this guy.

yeah no shlt. Fire them! Then send them to jail for racial targeting, false arrest, assault and murder! Then his family should sue the police force! 한국인 노르웨이인의 주식?-- 고래고기 ---그당시의 글?과 그림을 그린 사람의 의도는?--모르지요 그들의 왈?고래고기 먹지말것---***주위 호주주위 호르무즈해협내--- 러시아의 행로가 다른 똘만이 고래도 있는듯? follow me and i immediately follow you back! 😎

의사들의 변질의 이유를 모르는듯--- 사유와 핑계가 많네요 심한 성범죄사유는 --그누가 그들을 믿으리(특히 여자들) Shut up! Everytime I see/hear Elijah’s name, my heart breaks for him again and again. His death was completely senseless and tragic. May he Rest In Peace. The world is a darker place with his light extinguished. ❤️ ...again the dusty ole rhetoric 'after a detailed review the all white board voted unanimously clearing officers involved in the unarmed execution of an American kid killed in his backyard while holding a white ice cream cone cops claim could have been a KGB poisoned dart gun.

What a travesty. A cascade of failures. Sickening. They should look into charging the paramedics. I can’t even fathom why they sedated an unconscious person on the cops say so. Arrest them now. Abolish the unions that defend them. As long as BLM keeps trying to make this issue about race, the problem will never be solved. It is so simple. Resisting police always ends badly, no matter what the color of the police officers skin. Teach your children to avoid fighting with police and lives will be saved.

To serve and protect takes on a whole new meaning 😢 Not safe to buy a beverage and walk with it down a public street Biden is President. Racism is over. Thats not good but Bidens president so isnt BLM over now? this is terrible news