DENVER (AP) – A black man who died after a police encounter in suburban Denver in 2019 died because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being forcibly restrained, according to a revised coroner’s report released publicly Friday.
Despite the decision, the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was still listed as undetermined, the report shows. McClain was strangled and injected with ketamine after police in Aurora stopped him for “being suspicious.” He was unarmed.
The original autopsy report written shortly after his death in August 2019 did not reach a conclusion as to how he died or what the cause of death was, whether it was natural, accidental or homicidal. That was a big reason prosecutors initially decided not to pursue charges.
But a state grand jury last year indicted three officers and two paramedics on manslaughter and reckless homicide charges in McClain’s death after the case drew renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. It became a rallying cry during the national reckoning on racism and policing. brutality.
The indictment cited information from an unspecified pathologist that concluded McClain died of complications from being injected with ketamine, a sedative, while being force-fed and restrained by law enforcement and emergency responders.
The five accused have not yet entered pleas and their lawyers have not publicly commented on the charges.
The updated autopsy was released Friday under a court order in a lawsuit brought 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 made available under the state’s public records law.
Coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan said she could not release it because it contained confidential grand jury information and releasing it would violate an oath she took not to share when she received it last year.
But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the coroner to release the updated report by Friday, and the Denver judge overseeing state grand jury proceedings, Christopher Baumann, ruled Thursday that grand jury information was not changed from the updated report.
McClain’s death has prompted renewed scrutiny of the use of ketamine 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 officers used the force against McClain and that his struggle to survive greatly increased the amount of lactic acid in his system, causing his death, possibly along with the large dose of ketamine administered. him.
An outside investigation commissioned by the city faulted the police probe into McClain’s arrest for not pressing for answers about how officers treated him. It found there was no evidence to justify the officers’ decision to stop McClain, who was reported to be suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask while walking down the street while waving his hands. He was not accused of breaking any law.