DENVER– A black man who died after an encounter with police in a Denver suburb in 2019 died because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being forcibly restrained, according to an amended autopsy report released Friday.
Despite the finding, the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was still listed as undetermined, the report shows. McClain was held by the neck and injected with ketamine after police pulled him over in Aurora for “suspicion.” Hey, he was unarmed.
The original autopsy report that was written shortly after her death in August 2019 did not reach a conclusion on how she died or what type of death it was, such as natural, accidental or homicide. That was one of the main reasons prosecutors initially decided not to press charges.
But a state grand jury last year indicted three officers and two paramedics with involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in McClain’s death after the case drew renewed attention following the 2020 killing of George Floyd. It became a rallying cry. war during the national reckoning on racism and policing. brutality.
The indictment referenced information from an unspecified pathologist who concluded that McClain died of complications from being injected with ketamine, a sedative, while being violently subdued and restrained by law enforcement and emergency services.
The five defendants have not yet pleaded guilty and their attorneys have not commented publicly on the charges.
The updated autopsy was released Friday under court order in a lawsuit filed by Colorado Public Radio, along with other media organizations including The Associated Press. Colorado Public Radio sued the coroner to release the report after learning it had been updated, arguing it should be available under the state’s public records law.
Coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan said she couldn’t release it because it contained confidential grand jury information and that releasing it would violate the oath she took not to share it when she got it last year.
But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the coroner to release the updated report Friday, and a Denver judge overseeing state grand jury proceedings, Christopher Baumann, ruled Thursday that the grand jury information it was not removed from the updated report.
McClain’s death sparked renewed scrutiny over ketamine use and prompted the Colorado health department to issue a new rule limiting when emergency workers can use it.
Last year, the city of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit brought by McClain’s parents. The lawsuit alleges that the force the officers used against McClain and his struggle to survive dramatically increased the amount of lactic acid in his system, leading to his death, possibly along with the large dose of ketamine they gave him.
An outside investigation commissioned by the city criticized the police investigation into McClain’s arrest for not pressing for answers about how officers treated him. It found that there was no evidence to justify the officers’ decision to detain McClain, who had been reported as a suspect because he was wearing a ski mask as he walked down the street waving his hands. He was not accused of breaking any law.