Police and paramedics made several mistakes in the 2019 Colorado arrest of 23-year-old Elijah McClain that led to the death of the unarmed black man, according to an independent investigators report released on Monday. .
Police had no legal basis to arrest McClain, who was walking home from a convenience store, search him, or use a choke on him when they approached him on August 24 in the Denver suburb of Aurora. , according to the report.
McClain went into cardiac arrest after being overpowered by three police officers during the encounter and injected with ketamine, a sedative, by paramedics, authorities said. He died a few days later in hospital.
During the meeting, the body camera checked in McClain told police he doesn’t like to be touched and is “different.” He can be heard later apologizing and telling the police that he couldn’t breathe as they restrained him.
“Body-worn camera audio, limited video and major crime interviews with police tell two contrasting stories,” the independent report said.
“Statements by officers at the scene and in the recorded interviews that followed suggest a violent and relentless struggle. The limited video and audio from body-worn cameras reveal Mr. McClain surrounded by officers, all taller than him, screaming in pain, apologizing, explaining himself and pleading with the police, ”the report continued.
The death of McClain, an amateur violinist who worked as a massage therapist, has come under scrutiny amid the racial justice protests that swept across the United States throughout the summer of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s death by police in May.
Aurora City Council requested the investigation after previous investigations by city departments determined that officers and paramedics involved in McClain’s death did not violate policy and state prosecutors refused to file a complaint.
“No longer labeled suspect”
Police Officer Aurora Nathan Woodyard decided in less than 10 seconds after McClain’s arrest “to turn what could have been a consensual meeting with Mr. McClain into an investigation without apparent cause,” according to the 157-page report. , which was compiled by the former chief of special litigation for the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice, Jonathan Smith, as well as a former chief of the Arizona police force and a doctor who heads the services emergency medical personnel in Alabama.
The report says paramedics also failed to properly screen McClain before injecting him with 500 milligrams of ketamine. This dosage was based on a “grossly inaccurate” estimate that McClain weighed 86 kg (190 pounds), and not his actual weight of 63 kg (140 pounds), according to the report.
Mari Newman, an attorney for McClain’s family, said in a statement to Reuters news agency that the independent report “confirms what we have known from the start: police and doctors in Aurora violated civil rights of Elijah McClain, and Aurora did everything in her power to sweep her murder under the rug ”.
Meanwhile, McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, told the Denver Post that she was “happy that Elijah is no longer called a suspect, that he is called a victim.”
McClain’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the police department.
‘Did not ask essential and critical questions’
The independent investigation also concluded that an initial Aurora Police investigation was inadequate, saying police investigators “failed to ask fundamental and critical questions” that would have helped prosecutors determine whether the force used was justified.
Rather, police investigators asked questions that appeared designed to elicit comments that would exonerate the officers involved, according to the report.
“It is difficult to imagine that other people involved in a fatal incident are questioned like these officers,” the report said.
The city of Aurora, police and emergency response officials were due to respond to the report on Tuesday.
The results of the investigation ordered by city council are the first to be made public of several ongoing investigations into the murder.
The Colorado attorney general’s office has asked a grand jury to review the case and see if any criminal charges are warranted. The Department of Justice is investigating whether agents violated McClain’s civil rights.
One of the agents involved in the incident, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired after fellow officers sent him a choke-mimicking photo near where McClain was arrested. Rosenblatt replied, “haha”.
The other officers involved in the shutdown, Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, are still employed by the department.