23-year old Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store in Aurora, Colorado when someone called 911 to report a "suspicious person" in a ski mask. Shortly thereafter, officers responded to the scene, tackled McClain to the ground, put him in a carotid hold, and called first responders.
As McClain was being restrained, the body cams fell off, but the officers and McClain can still be heard throughout the scuffle. An officer claimed Elijah grabbed one of their guns. McClain can be heard trying to explain himself, sometimes crying out or sobbing. He said, "I'm just different. I'm just different, that's all. That's all I was doing. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why were you attacking me? I don't do guns. I don't even kill flies. I don't eat meat. I am a vegetarian."
Once officers retrieve the body cam, McClain can be seen handcuffed, laying on his side, and occasionally vomiting as another officer restrains him.
Upon arriving, Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics injected Elijah with the sedative ketamine. McClain, who weighed 140 pounds, was administered 500 milligrams of ketamine. More than 1.5x the dose for his weight. The drug was allowed to be used by the fire department to sedate combative or aggressive people.
According to a federal lawsuit from McClain's family, within five minutes Elijah stopped breathing. He suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital. Elijah died six days later after being declared brain-dead and taken off life support.
Dr. Stephen Cina, a pathologist who conducted an autopsy concluded that a combination of a narrowed coronary artery and physical exertion contributed to McClain's death. But he found no evidence of a ketamine overdose.
The family alleges in a lawsuit, that McClain died as a result of a dramatic increase of lactic acid in his blood caused by excessive force used by police over about 18 minutes, combined with the effects of the ketamine.
All five officers and paramedics are charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. The three officers who detained McClain also face felony charges.
The two paramedics who administered the sedative ketamine to McClain, each face three counts of assault and six sentence-enhancing charges. The indictment states that the paramedics failed to physically check McClain, incorrectly diagnosed him with excited delirium, and injected him with a dose of ketamine too large for his size and failed to monitor him for complications after the injection.
Steve Wirth, a former paramedic and attorney said the indictment, “could have a stifling effect. You can’t practice check-list medicine because no one patient is the same.”
Colorado state Senate President Leroy Garcia, who works in Pueblo as a paramedic and a paramedic instructor said, “It shouldn’t make anyone more nervous about this profession because liability is extended in every profession.”
A recently passed bill bans the use of ketamine to treat excited delirium, a controversial diagnosis of a form of extreme agitation outside of hospitals. Dozens of paramedics testified against the bill. Jacob Oldefest, a paramedic in the Denver area said, "It was taken from us for a mistake that another agency made. I feel like they should’ve been reprimanded and not all of us."
Lakewood councilwoman and lawyer, Anita Springsteen advocated for the ketamine bill. She said, "If it’s a deadly weapon, it’s not just a deadly weapon for Elijah McClain."
Civil rights attorney Birk Baumgartner said, "After this indictment, no rational paramedic should consider getting his ketamine needle out his bag. You could get indicted and you should be if you kill somebody with it."
Governor Jared Polis ordered a criminal investigation after a district attorney in 2019 did not charge the officers because an autopsy could not determine how McClain died. In January of this year, Attorney General Phil Weiser opened a grand jury investigation.
Aurora's review did not find any evidence to justify officers stopping McClain as he walked home from the store on August 24th, 2019. A 911 caller had reported a man wearing a ski mask and waving his hands, seeming sketchy. McClain's family said he wore the mask because he had anemia that caused him to get cold easily.
LaWayne Mosley, McClain’s father said,"Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable."