New autopsy shows US police killed black man with sedative, chokehold
New evidence in an amended autopsy shows that 23-year-old Elijah McClain was murdered at the hands of Denver police who used a neck hold on him, while also implicating paramedics over a deadly ketamine dose.
An updated autopsy report released Friday reveals that the black victim, Elijah McClain, was killed in 2019 in Denver after he was injected with a powerful sedative, ketamine, and forcibly restrained by police.
Although the new autopsy confirms the nature of the death, the 23-year-old's case is still not listed as a homicide, as initially, prosecutors decided not to press charges because the first autopsy released the same year he was murdered reached no conclusion about how he died or what type of death it was, such as if it was natural, accidental or a homicide.
At the time, police used the carotid neck hold technique on McClain, which would render him unconscious if applied correctly, and paramedics injected him with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora for “being suspicious”, but McClain was unarmed.
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Dr. Stephen Cina, the forensic pathologist who had initially concluded the cause of death as "undetermined", disclosed on Friday that he had “insufficient information” during his 2019 autopsy. “I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” Cina wrote in Friday's report.
After Colorado Governor Jared Polis assigned the state’s attorney general to investigate McClain's death, three police officers and two paramedics were criminally charged in September 2021 following public protests, and all five are charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide with pleas set to take place in November.
The slain victim was walking home from a convenience store in the Denver suburb of Aurora on August 24, 2019, but was confronted and stopped by police who claim to have received a report of suspicious activity although he was not suspected of a crime.
According to an indictment, officers grabbed McClain with a carotid neck hold and placed him in handcuffs after which paramedics arrived at the scene and injected him with a dose of ketamine too high for someone his weight, as supported by the autopsy. This led McClain to go into cardiac arrest and days later, he died at a hospital.
The McClain case sparked national outrage after which the 2020 death of George Floyd, who was murdered under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer - which led to a wave of global protests over police brutality against Black Americans.
According to research conducted last year by the University of Washington, Seattle, Black Americans were estimated to be 3.5 times more likely than white Americans to be victims of police brutality. Since 2014, a long list of African Americans across the US were murdered at the hands of police, such as Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
In November of last year, the city of Aurora agreed to compensate McClain’s parents with $15 million in an attempt to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit, in addition to Colorado's attorney general determining that the city's police force frequently violated the law by engaging in racially biased policing and excessive use of force.