DENVER (AP) — A black man who died after a police encounter in a Denver suburb in 2019 died after being injected with a potent sedative after being forcibly restrained, according to an amended autopsy report made public Friday.
Despite the finding, the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was still listed as undetermined, the report shows. McClain was held in the neck and injected with ketamine after being detained by police in Aurora for being “suspicious”. He was unarmed.
The original autopsy report written shortly after his death in August 2019 did not come to a conclusion as to how he died or what type of death it was, such as whether it was natural, accidental or a homicide. That was a major reason why prosecutors initially decided not to pursue the charges.
But last year, a state jury charged three officers and two paramedics with manslaughter and reckless manslaughter in the death of McClain after the case attracted renewed attention following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. It became a rallying cry during the national reckoning over racism and police brutality. .
The indictment referred to information from an unspecified pathologist who concluded that McClain died of complications from an injection of ketamine, a sedative, while being violently suppressed and restrained by law enforcement and emergency services.
The five accused have not yet presented oral argument and their lawyers have not publicly commented on the allegations.
The updated autopsy was released Friday under a court order in a lawsuit filed by Colorado Public Radio, along with other media organizations, including The Associated Press. Colorado Public Radio sued the coroner to release the report after learning it had been updated, arguing it should be made available under the state’s public records law.
Coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan said she could not release it because it contained confidential grand jury information and that releasing it would violate the oath she took not to share when she received it last year.
But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the coroner’s office to release the updated report before Friday, and a Denver judge who oversees state jury proceedings, Christopher Baumann, ruled Thursday that the grand jury’s information does not count. updated report was removed.
McClain’s death sparked renewed research into the use of ketamine and led the Colorado Department of Health to issue a new rule restricting when first responders can use it.
Last year, the city of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents. The lawsuit alleged that the coercive officers used against McClain and his struggle to survive dramatically increased the amount of lactic acid in his system, leading to his death, possibly along with the large dose of ketamine he was given.
An outside investigation commissioned by the city criticized the police investigation into McClain’s arrest for not pushing for answers about how officers treated him. It found there was no evidence to justify the officers’ decision to stop McClain, who had been reported as suspicious for wearing a ski mask while walking down the street with his hands. He was not charged with breaking any law.