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Family of Elijah McClain filing lawsuit against city of Aurora, others involved in death

 McClain Family
McClain Family (KSNB)
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 12:07 PM MDT
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AURORA, Colo. (KKTV) - The family of a 23-year-old man killed during an encounter with police last summer has filed a civil rights lawsuit demanding justice in his death.

Elijah McClain had gone to the store to buy his brother tea on the night of Aug. 24, 2019 when he was stopped by police. The officers were responding to a 911 call about a “suspicious person” in the area of the convenience store.

“I have a right to go where I am going,” McClain is heard saying on body camera footage released in June.

“And I have a right to stop you because you are being suspicious,” one officer replied.

McClain is heard stating his name and trying to explain where he was going, before the camera volume became muffled.

“My name is Elijah McClain! That’s not what I was doing! I was going home! I’m an introvert and I am different.”

McClain was eventually put into a chokehold by the police officers and given a sedative by paramedics after a confrontation with officers. He stopped breathing on the way to the hospital.

Months after his death, Gov. Jared Polis ordered an investigation into whether or not there was any criminal wrongdoing, and the city of Aurora is looking into the actions of the officers and paramedics and reviewing whether any policies need to be changed. McClain’s death also prompted protests nationwide.

“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 its longstanding pattern of brutal and racist policing,” the family’s attorney wrote in a statement released Tuesday immediately following the filing of the civil suit.

The full statement is below:

“Moments ago, we filed a civil rights lawsuit demanding justice for the murder of Elijah McClain, a remarkable and creative young man who leaves behind a family and community who grieve the loss of his extraordinary kindness and his love for all humanity.

“Elijah Javon McClain was 23 years old when he was killed by Aurora police officers and paramedics. Elijah’s killers extinguished the light of a beautiful young man who loved all beings. His compassion for animals was so strong that he played his violin for cats at animal shelters, believing that music eased their loneliness, and he was so averse to causing harm to another living being that he would chase flies away rather than swatting them. Yet when the Aurora Police Department (APD) officers encountered Elijah on the evening of August 24, 2019, they saw none of the kindness and gentleness for which he was known, but rather just another Black man in America.

“Even though Elijah had committed no crime and the police had absolutely no reason to suspect that he had, APD officers subjected Elijah to a lengthy, torturous use of force for eighteen minutes—fifteen of which Elijah was handcuffed and lying on the ground. The force that APD officers used against Elijah included compressing his neck and the blood flow to his brain with two consecutive carotid holds, cranking his left shoulder with an armbar hammerlock that caused it to repeatedly pop, and, even after he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, continuing to crush him under the weight of their bodies and repeatedly slamming him to ground. All the while, Elijah pleaded with the officers that he had could not breathe and was just trying to go home; he sobbed, and vomited, and then pleaded some more.

“When Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) paramedics arrived, they found Elijah lying on the ground in his own vomit, totally subdued, handcuffed, exhausted, and begging the APD officers to stop hurting him. Rather than assist Elijah, Aurora paramedics recklessly injected Elijah with an overdose of ketamine, a powerful sedative that can – and did – cause devastating side effects. Alarmingly, the Aurora paramedics’ decision to involuntary inject Elijah with a dose of ketamine well beyond what a man Elijah’s size should receive was consistent with a dangerous pattern that developed under the so-called “oversight” of AFR medical director Dr. Eric Hill.

“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 its longstanding pattern of brutal and racist policing.”

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