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Aurora officers involved in Elijah McClain arrest did not violate PD policy, review finds

Elijah McClain
Posted at 4:55 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 21:07:30-05

AURORA, Colo. — A review board determined that Aurora police officers acted within department policy when they confronted and used force on a 23-year-old man who died following the interaction, the police department announced on Thursday afternoon.

Elijah McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to a hospital after the Aug. 24 incident, which happened in the 1900 block of Billings Street. Officers had responded to a call about a suspicious man wearing a ski mask and waving his arms. When they arrived, they contacted McClain, who resisted when the officers tried to detain him, police said.

A struggle ensued, and a responding officer requested that a paramedic give McClain a dose of ketamine "due to the level of physical force applied while restraining the subject and his agitated mental state," officials said.

The officers involved in the incident did not face criminal charges. A department "force review board" convened last week to review the case, police said in a news release, and found that the officers "had a lawful reason to contact Mr. McClain."

The board also found that the force applied by officers — which included a carotid control hold — during the incident was "within policy and consistent with training."

The Adams County Coroner conducted the autopsy on McClain and ruled that the manner of his death was "undetermined," saying it could not determine whether his death was an accident, due to natural causes or a homicide.

“The loss of Mr. McClain’s life is tragic, and we continue to offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all those impacted by this loss," interim police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in the news release Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said he would be "initiating a Critical Incident Review" of how Aurora police and firefighters responded to the McClain incident.

"It is not enough to see if policies were followed," Twombly said. "We now need to take a very critical look at all aspects of the incident and make changes that better serve our community."

The 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office had decided in November to not charge the officers involved in the incident.

“There is no evidence that any of the officers sought to cause injury or death to Mr. McClain," a letter from the district attorney's office said in November. "Rather, evidence suggests that they exercised a degree of force they believed necessary to detain him and investigate into his possible criminal activity."

Listen to the 911 call for the McClain incident:

Watch the full body camera footage from the McClain incident:

McClain's death led to criticism from his family and supporters of how police handled the incident. Mari Newman, the McClain family attorney, released the following statement on behalf of the family Thursday night:

"Aurora has just released a statement to the media claiming that officers followed Aurora’s policy and training when they killed Elijah McClain, an innocent young man who was not suspected of any crime, had no weapon, had no criminal history, and had done absolutely nothing wrong. He was just trying to walk home.

"APD officers confronted this innocent, unarmed man by immediately going hands on, grabbing Elijah, throwing him down, applying a carotid choke hold—twice—and continuing to inflict multiple other types of force even after Elijah’s hands were cuffed behind his back. As Elijah lay crying, begging, and then vomiting, an APD officer threated to unleash a dog to attack him. Outrageously, Aurora has concluded that this force was “within policy and consistent with training.” The community should be horrified.

"Aurora keeps promising “transparency,” but tonight’s late hour press release is yet another example of Aurora doing its best to keep Elijah’s family and the community in the dark.

"We are disappointed, but not surprised, that once again, Aurora has condoned its officers’ killing of an unarmed black man."