Colorado City Settles Elijah McClain Family Civil Rights Lawsuit for $ 15 Million


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DENVER, Nov. 19 (Reuters) – The city of Aurora, Colorado, has agreed to pay $ 15 million to settle the civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Elijah McClain, a black man who died in 2019 after being restrained by police and injected by paramedics with a sedative, the two sides said Friday.

The deal, marking the largest civil rights settlement in the state’s history, came about nine weeks after the Colorado attorney general completed an investigation finding Aurora police routinely violated federal laws and states by engaging in racist police operations and excessive force.

The investigation led to a consent order with the Aurora City Police Department, a Denver suburb of about 369,000 residents, allowing an independent observer to examine the training, policies and practices of the service.

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On September 1, three police officers and two paramedics involved in McClain’s death were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. These cases are pending.

McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, confirmed the settlement amount in a written statement issued through her attorney, after the city announced the deal.

“No amount of money will ever bring Elijah back to his mother,” the statement said. “Mrs. McClain would return every penny for one more day with her son.

Elijah McClain, 23, was walking home from a convenience store in Aurora on August 24, 2019, when he was confronted with police responding to reports that he was seen acting suspiciously, although he did not was not suspected of a crime.

Police placed McClain in a carotid neck socket and he was then injected by paramedics with ketamine, a strong sedative. He went into cardiac arrest and died a few days later in a hospital.

“I JUST GOT HOME”

In a video recording of the encounter from a body camera carried by the police, a sobbing McClain could be heard begging the police to restrain him: “I can’t breathe, please stop. I was just coming home.

The episode initially attracted little attention outside of Colorado. But the case sparked further scrutiny and public anger as protesters against racial injustice and police brutality took to the streets of the United States in the summer of 2020 after black man George Floyd charged for attempting to pass a counterfeit bill, died below the knee of a white Minneapolis policeman.

The officer in this case, Derek Chauvin, was later convicted of murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Colorado prosecutors initially refused to initiate criminal proceedings in the McClain case, citing an autopsy indicating the cause of death was undetermined. But Gov. Jared Polis ordered the state attorney general to open a new investigation last year, leading to indictments of 32 charges against police and paramedics in September.

The local police union at the time called the indictments a “hysterical overreaction” and noted that an earlier investigation had cleared the officers of wrongdoing.

In a written statement Friday, McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said he hoped the big payment “would send a message to police around the world that there were consequences for their actions.”

“I hope Elijah’s legacy is that the police think twice about killing another innocent person,” he said.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said on Friday his service had implemented “significant changes” in response to the tragedy.

The finalized deal comes after a mediation hearing between McClain’s family members in federal court on Friday, the city said.

Liability insurance will cover $ 10 million of the settlement, the maximum amount it can pay. The remaining $ 5 million will be paid from Aurora’s general fund, the city said.

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Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Chris Reese, David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis


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