Elijah McClain's Family To Receive Highest Police Settlement In Colorado History For 2019 Death

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Elijah McClain

The city of Aurora, Colorado has agreed to pay Elijah McClain’s family $15 million after the family filed a civil lawsuit over his death.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died after being stopped by the police on the night of August 24, 2019. 

He had been wearing headphones listening to music, and was wearing a ski mask because he was anemic and prone to get cold easily.

Someone who had noticed McClain walking down the street called 911 after saying he looked “sketchy.”

He hadn’t committed a crime, and there was no reason for him to be arrested, but Aurora police had arrived and placed McClain in a carotid hold, which cuts off blood to the brain.

Paramedics on the scene then injected McClain with Ketamine while he was handcuffed, a strong sedative that caused him to go into cardiac arrest on his way to the hospital where he died a few days later.

Elijah McClain's family will receive the settlement after a long battle.

City leaders in Aurora are prepared to sign a settlement with the McClain family as soon as they complete a separate process on dividing up the settlement.

It will also be the highest police settlement in the history of Colorado.

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The lawsuit filed by the McClain family alleges that Elijah was unlawfully stopped on the street by police.

Later, the same officers tried to seek justice for their aggressive handling of McClain, filing an assault charge against him to try and suggest that he had a connection to a gang in a police report notation.

Body camera footage from the night shows an officer getting out of his car and approaching McClain, saying, “Stop right there. Stop. Stop… I have a right to stop you because you’re being suspicious.”

McClain, who was startled by the sudden approach, tries to escape the officer’s grip as the officer says, “Relax or I’m going to have to change this situation.”

It’s then that McClain begs them to let him go. “You guys started to arrest me and I was stopping my music to listen.”

That’s when police proceeded to put McClain in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with 500mg of ketamine.

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McClain told officers he couldn't breathe.

They ignored him as he cried in pain and even vomited, for which he apologized for, repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that, I can’t breathe correctly.”

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Police also alleged that McClain had fought back against them while in custody, and even tried to reach for one of their guns.

But, in the body-cam footage, McClain can be heard pleading with officers that he’s an “introvert” and wanted them to “respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”

In February 2021, an investigation found that police officers did not have the right to stop, frisk, and put Elijah McClain in a chokehold.

The three officers and two paramedics involved in McClain’s death were indicted in September by a grand jury.

All five suspects were indicted with charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. 

A legal representative for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said that she is thankful for the community and its “incredible support, love, and commitment,” to ensure that her son’s death would lead to meaningful justice.

"While nothing will fill that void, Ms. McClain is hopeful that badly needed reforms to the Aurora Police Department will spare other parents the same heartache.”

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.