Aurora, Colorado Police Had No Legal Standing to Stop Elijah McClain, Independent Report Finds

Aurora, Colorado Police Had No Legal Standing to Stop Elijah McClain, Independent Report Finds

The Aurora, Colorado, police officers who stopped Elijah McClain as he was was walking home from a convenience store—and then put him in a carotid hold in which he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe before injecting him with ketamine—did not have any legal basis for the August 2019 altercation, an independent investigation has concluded.

The 157-page report, commissioned by the City of Aurora after McClain’s death drew worldwide condemnation, offered stunning details into the countless missteps involved in the 23-year-old Black massage therapist’s death. Independent investigators concluded in the report released Monday that “the post-event investigation was flawed and failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record. These facts trouble the panel. However, it was not our charge to assess whether misconduct occurred; rather, our task was simply to report what we could learn from the record and make policy recommendations.”

Investigators found that McClain’s death happened quickly; however, neither the resident who initially called 911 nor the responding officers even identified the 23-year-old as having committed a crime.

“Within seconds of exiting their cars, officers used force on Mr. McClain which they sustained over an extended time period, including two attempted carotid holds,” the report states. “EMS waited almost seven minutes after arriving to interact with Mr. McClain, and their first contact was to administer the sedative ketamine.”

“The body-worn camera audio, limited video, and Major Crime’s interviews with the officers tell two contrasting stories,” the report states. “The officers’ statements on the scene and in subsequent recorded interviews suggest a violent and relentless struggle. 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.”

The city hired a panel of investigators to examine the officers’ and paramedics’ decisions that led to McClain’s Aug. 24 death after intense national scrutiny. In the wake of outrage over George Floyd’s May 2020 death, protesters have called for renewed attention to several fatalities at the hands of police—including McClain’s.

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