Colorado man Elijah McClain died from OD of sedative given by paramedics, autopsy shows

Noah and his older sister visit a mural of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after an encounter with police officers, ahead of the one year anniversary of his death in Denver, Colorado, U.S., August 8, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt//File Photo

DENVER, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man killed in 2019 after an encounter with police in Aurora, Colorado, died of an overdose of the powerful sedative ketamine that was injected by paramedics, a new autopsy report released on Friday concluded.

Dr. Stephen Cina, a forensic pathologist who had initially concluded that McClain's cause of death was "undetermined," wrote in his new report on Friday that he had had “insufficient information” during his 2019 autopsy.

Three police officers and two paramedics were criminally charged in McClain’s death in 2021, following protests.

“I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” Cina wrote in Friday's report.

McClain, 23, was walking home from a convenience store in the Denver suburb of Aurora on August 24, 2019, when he was confronted by police responding to a report that he was acting suspiciously, although he was not suspected of a crime.

The officers subdued McClain with a carotid neck hold and handcuffed him, according to an indictment. Paramedics then arrived and injected him with a dose of ketamine too high for someone of his weight, according to the autopsy. McClain went into cardiac arrest and died days later at a hospital.

Months after his death, a local prosecutor declined to prosecute the first responders, citing the initial autopsy.

The McClain case drew national attention following the 2020 death of George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer, which sparked global protests over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement.

Following the outcry, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed the state’s attorney general to review McClain's death. In September 2021, a grand jury indicted the three Aurora police officers and two paramedics.

All five are charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide and are set to enter pleas in November.

Last November, the city of Aurora agreed to pay McClain’s parents $15 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit. Also last year, Colorado's attorney general determined that Aurora's police routinely violated the law by engaging in racially biased policing and excessive use of force.

Reporting by Keith Coffman, Editing by Donna Bryson and Bill Berkrot

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