Elijah McClain should be here right now.
The 23-year-old Aurora native died after being put in a chokehold by police in 2019. McClain was walking home from a convenience store until he was approached by police after someone made a call about a “suspicious person.” Six days later, he passed away.
An independent investigation revealed officers didn’t have any grounds to stop or use force against McClain.
While the decision to approach McClain “did not appear to be supported” by reasonable suspicion that he committed a crime, an officer had already placed his hands on the 23-year-old within 10 seconds of exiting his patrol car, according to the report. From there, the three officers attempted to frisk him, which is only allowed when responders believe they are at risk.
The investigative panel also concluded, “that one officer’s explanation that Aurora officers are trained to ‘take action before it escalates’ does not meet the constitutional requirement of reasonable suspicion.”
According to the report, McClain was “nearly constantly” faced with some level of physical threat during his 18-minute interaction with officers. That includes their use of a carotid hold, a restraint technique that involves pressure being placed on both sides of the neck.
“The audio captured by the body worn camera contains two sharply contrasting narratives — on the one hand, Mr. McClain pleading, apologizing, and expressing pain, and on the other hand, the officers continuing to perceive resistance,” the report said.
“In addition, EMS administered a ketamine dosage based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s size. Higher doses can carry a higher risk of sedation complications, for which this team was clearly not prepared.”
McClain quickly lost consciousness and was taken off life support just less than a week later.
McClain’s mother told CNN in a statement she’s thankful for the findings. She said,
“It was overwhelming knowing my son was innocent the entire time and just waiting on the facts and proof of it. My son’s name is cleared now. He’s no longer labeled a suspect. He is actually a victim.”
No officers or medics involved in McClain’s death were criminally charged. The district attorney at the time said the autopsy failed to identify a precise cause of death.