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Crime and Courts

Parents of Elijah McClain sue Aurora police over his death

The 23-year-old suffered cardiac arrest, was later declared brain dead and taken off life support several days later

AURORA — The parents of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after officers in suburban Denver stopped him on the street last year and put him in a chokehold, sued police and medical officials Tuesday.

“We have filed this civil rights lawsuit to demand justice for Elijah McClain, to hold accountable the Aurora officials, police officers, and paramedics responsible for his murder, and to force the City of Aurora to change it longstanding pattern of brutal and racist policing,” Sheneen McClain and Lawayne Mosley said in a statement released by their attorney.

Sheneen McClain, whose son Elijah, 23, died after he was detained by Aurora police, stands with family attorney Mari Newman, left, during the final testimony about Colorado’s sweeping police accountability bill in the Colorado House on June 12, 2020. The measure passed the House 52-13. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Elijah McClain was stopped by three white officers on Aug. 24, 2019, while they responded to a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms. Police put him in a chokehold, and paramedics gave him 500 milligrams of ketamine to calm him down.

The 106-page legal action filed Monday in federal court names the officers involved in the fatal encounter. It claims officers violated his Constitutional rights.

MORE: Read the lawsuit.

McClain, who hadn’t committed any crime, suffered cardiac arrest, was later declared brain dead and taken off life support several days later.

The lawsuit claims one officer jammed his knee into McClain’s arm “with the sole purpose of inflicting pain by forcefully separating Elijah’s bicep and triceps muscles.”

It also says two of the officers reported that all three of them simultaneously placed their body weight on McClain after a chokehold. One officer estimated that the collective weight on McClain, who weighed 140 pounds, to be over 700 pounds.

“Paramedics injected Elijah with a dose well beyond what a man Elijah’s size should receive,” the lawsuit says.

The national reckoning over racism and police brutality following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis brought renewed criticism to Aurora police over McClain’s death.

Elijah McClain. (Via CBS4 Denver)

“Aurora’s unconstitutional conduct on the night of Aug. 24, 2019, is part of a larger custom, policy, and practice of racism and brutality as reflected by its conduct both before and after its murder of Elijah McClain,” the lawsuit says. “For decades, Aurora police have persistently brutalized people of color, and especially Black people, at a rate significantly greater than their proportion of the Aurora community.”

The lawsuit says it was brought in search of accountability and “to ensure that Elijah did not die in vain.”

Aurora police did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating McClain’s death, as is the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Aurora has also launched an independent review of the events leading up to McClain’s death.

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