‘Elijah McClain should still be here today’; Aurora Fire Rescue, Aurora police respond to independent review

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – The results of an independent Elijah McClain death investigation commissioned by the City of Aurora were released Monday morning in a 157-page document.

In the report, it was concluded that “the post-event investigation was flawed and failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record.  These facts trouble the Panel.  However, it was not our charge to assess whether misconduct occurred; rather, our task was simply to report what we could learn from the record and make policy recommendations.”

In the interest of transparency, city management is publicly disclosing the findings immediately so members of the public can prepare to view the presentation, according to an update released Monday.

“We felt it was important for the public to see the results of the investigation at the same time we received them,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said. “We welcomed how comprehensive and thorough the investigators were over the last six months. We are currently reviewing their report and look forward to hearing additional context during their presentation before we comment further. City management will work with the Mayor and City Council in coming days and weeks to assure the appropriate next steps are taken.”

Recommendations from the Independent Review Panel

  • Review Training and Supervision of Officers
  • Use of Force/De-Escalation
  • Transition from Aurora Police Department to Aurora Fire
  • Build Culture of Patient Advocacy
  • Training to Complete EMS Assessment
  • After-Incident Review

The panel also found four areas of concern:

  • Implicit Bias
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Independence and Separate Authority of Medical Personnel
  • Administration of Ketamine

When it comes to use of force, this is what the panel had to say:

“In the Panel’s opinion, Major Crime investigators failed to meaningfully investigate the officers’ continued use of force after Mr. McClain was restrained, such as through a closer examination of the officers’ contentions that Mr. McClain continued to resist. Even once it should have been obvious that Mr. McClain was not able to resist or escape, given both that he was handcuffed and in the presence of multiple officers, the officers continued to use pain compliance techniques. Throughout, there were times when officers could be seen on body worn camera footage adjusting and intensifying arm bars and wrist-locks or pressing down on Mr. McClain’s back or side muscle groups, causing him to cry out in pain while they were on top of him. These appeared to be in response to almost any movement on Mr. McClain’s part. The officers were still discussing maintaining pressure
holds right up until Mr. McClain was injected with ketamine — and even though he did not appear
to be moving at that time.”

The city hired a team of three independent investigators during the summer to examine McClain’s August 2019 death and the actions by police, fire officials and paramedics.

These investigators will present their findings to Aurora City Council tonight at 5 p.m. We will stream that presentation live here on KDVR.com.

McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, released a statement following the released report on Monday.

McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, also shared a statement.

“This report confirms what we have been saying from the start. The Aurora police and medics who murdered my son must be held accountable.” shared Mosley.

McClain, 23, was wearing a mask when someone called 911 to report that he seemed suspicious.  McClain often wore the mask while jogging, according to his family and friends. He was not committing a crime and was unarmed when police approached him.

FOX31 was the first to track down the store clerk and the surveillance video from the store where McClain was purchasing refreshments prior to being confronted by police. In the video, he does a peaceful bow to the man behind him in line. His sister described it as a gratitude bow. His motto was “with gratitude” she said.

It took more than two months for the coroner’s office to publicly announce that it could not determine a cause and manner of death with certainty. The police officers used a carotid hold on McClain, and that could not be ruled out as a contributing factor. The paramedics administered ketamine to sedate McClain, and an adverse reaction to the drug could not be ruled out.

We also obtained documents showing at least one paramedic on the scene felt McClain received too much ketamine. You can read about that and see what the first responders had to say about how they decided what dose to give.

Colorado’s Attorney General, Phil Weiser, announced last month that his office had opened a grand jury investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.

“Our investigation will be thorough, guided by the facts and law, and worthy of the public’s trust. In order to maintain the impartiality and integrity of the process, we have no further comment at this time,” shared the Attorney General’s Office Friday.

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