Investigators Find Police Department and D.A. Failed Elijah McClain
Michael Ciaglo

Independent investigators released a report Monday, February 22 that determined police were at fault for the deadly arrest of Elijah McClain. The arresting officers were faulted for “quick, aggressive treatment” of McClain, and District Attorney Dave Young was called out for failing to properly investigate the case, The Associated Press reports. 

McClain, 23, was killed while being arrested by Aurora, Colorado police in August 2019 after someone reported him as suspicious. The report, which was commissioned by by the city of Aurora, found “two contrasting stories” of the events that unfolded leading up to McClain’s death. One story was based on statements from law enforcement, who accused McClain of being violent, which then forced them to engage in a struggle with the young, Black man. The second story is told by the police body camera footage, which shows McClain apologizing, crying out in pain, trying to explain himself and pleading with the officers. In the footage, officers are shown restraining McClain, utilizing “pain compliance” techniques, and either sitting or kneeling on him. During the arrest, officers put McClain in a chokehold that stops the flow of blood to the brain. He was then rendered temporarily unconscious. Paramedics arrived on the scene and injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine to sedate him. As a result, McClain had a heart attack and was later taken off life support. 

The investigation found that when paramedics arrived on the scene, they did not examine McClain before administering Ketamine. The report said that moving forward, paramedics should prioritize the patient instead of acting as a member of law enforcement.  

Investigators also found that District Attorney Dave Young’s review of the case neglected to assess properly whether a crime was committed by one of the officers involved. After reviewing McClain’s case, Young said he did not find enough evidence to support pressing criminal charges against officers. This decision drew national attention, prompting many people to take to the streets to demand more accountability and an end to police brutality. 

Tim Twombly, Aurora City Manager, emphasized the importance of publicly releasing the results of the report. His goal is to be as transparent as possible. “City management is reviewing the report and will work with the Mayor and City Council in coming days and weeks to assure the appropriate next steps are taken,” Twombly said. 

There are several additional, ongoing investigations surrounding McClain’s death. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is pursuing a criminal investigation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating the use of Ketamine, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice and the FBI are all conducting a federal civil rights investigation.