Police and paramedics made 'critical errors' leading to Elijah McClain's death, independent report finds

Mr McClain was stopped on 24 August in Aurora, Colorado, after police were told a “suspicious person” was in the area.

According to the report, the police had no justification for stopping and confronting Mr McClain, and even less when paramedics decided to sedate him with ketamine “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation.”

Mr McClain eventually lost consciousness and died as a result.

The probe was conducted by a panel of medical and legal experts that the Aurora City Council commissioned.

According to the report, none of the officers who stopped the 23 year-old “articulated a crime that they thought Mr McClain had committed, was committing or was about to commit.”

The report found that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr McClain was armed or dangerous in any way.

“Based on the record available to the panel, we were not able to identify sufficient evidence that Mr. McClain was armed and dangerous in order to justify a pat-down search,” the report said. “The panel also notes that one officer’s explanation that that Aurora officers are trained to ‘take action before it escalates’ does not meet the constitutional requirement of reasonable suspicion to conduct (a stop or frisk).”

Officers conducted a pat down search on Mr McClain, and claimed that the 5’7, 140 pound man resisted arrest. They responded by tackling Mr McClain and putting him in a carotid hold – meant to cut blood off to his brain – before paramedics injected him with enough ketamine for a 190 pound man.

“Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officers’ impression that Mr. McClain had excited delirium without corroborating that impression through meaningful observations or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain,” 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 suffered a heart attack on his way to the hospital and died on 30 August after being declared brain dead.

Despite pointing to the first responders’ mistakes as the primary causes behind Mr McClain’s death, the panel did not indicate that implicit bias was a root cause leading to the man’s death.

“In looking at this single incident, the panel has insufficient information to determine what role, if any, bias played in Aurora Police officers’ and EMS personnel’s encounter with McClain,” the report authors said. “However, research indicates that factors such as increased perception of threat, perception of extraordinary strength, perception of higher pain tolerance, and misperceptions of age and size can be indicative of bias.”

A previous review of the actions taken by the fire and emergency medical staff in the city found that the actions they took were “consistent and aligned with our established protocols.”

It is unclear what impact the report will have on city officials, if any at all.

The Aurora City Council will meet at 5pm to discuss the findings.

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