The family of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who died after police restrained him with a carotid hold—a now banned maneuver—may receive a $15 million settlement from the city of Aurora, Colorado.
First reported by CBS News, the settlement figure was confirmed by several sources to a local CBS affiliate and described as a “tentative” agreement.
McClain was 23 years old when he was killed in August 2019. Police stopped McClain as he was returning to his home on foot from a convenience store. Aurora Police said in an investigative report published this February that someone had called authorities and alerted them to a “suspicious person” in the area. The person was unarmed but was “walking and waving his arms.” The person who made the call also told the police they were not in any fear of harm.
Police contend that, when they came upon McClain, he was wearing a ski mask, a jacket, and long pants, and when they stopped him just after 11 p.m., he resisted arrest. He was not armed. Officers tackled McClain to the ground, put him in a chokehold—not once, but twice. The young man, who worked as a massage therapist, proceeded to vomit repeatedly as he struggled.
“His words were apologetic and confused, not angry or threatening. He became increasingly plaintive and desperate as he struggled to breathe. He told officers he had his ID, that his name was Elijah McClain, and that, ‘I was just going home… I’m an introvert and I’m different. Going home… I’m just different. I’m just different. That’s all. That’s all I was doing. I’m so sorry,’” the investigative report states.
Independent investigators have said audio record of the interaction was garbled at times. It is unclear whether McClain’s “movements, interpreted by the officers as resisting, were attempts to escape or simply an effort, voluntary or involuntary, to avoid the painful force being applied on him, to improve his breathing, or to accommodate his vomiting.”
Police had called paramedics at one point during the arrest. When they arrived, they injected McClain with ketamine, a sedative with powerful effects that can take hold in 60 seconds when used intravenously. Depending on a person’s size and whether the recipient is also on other medication or drugs, the effects of ketamine can be fatal since it can hamper a person’s respiratory system.
McClain, notably, had chronic asthma.
Before the injection, body camera footage from Aurora Police recorded one officer acknowledging aloud that McClain was unconscious after putting him in a chokehold. However, after the injection of ketamine, McClain went limp and was put onto a gurney so paramedics could transport him to an area hospital. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and remained on life support there for a few days before dying.
An autopsy report chalked up the cause of his death as “undetermined” and cited a number of factors, including his “violent struggling” with police as they tried to restrain him.
McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain sued the City of Aurora last year and the paramedics and police officers involved. In October, a settlement agreement with the city was reached, but there are questions over how the money will be dispersed, and a hearing to finalize details is expected this Friday.
As pointed out by CBS News, at the time of McClain’s death in 2019, Aurora had an insurance policy that topped out at $10 million, and officials say now that “the $5 million difference between the insurance policy and the settlement amount will likely be drawn from Aurora’s general fund.”
An attorney for McClain’s mother did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
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