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Denver suburb to pay $15 million to settle Elijah McClain lawsuit

DENVER – Aurora’s Denver suburb has agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died after suburban Denver police stopped him on the street. street and strangled him two years ago, the city and a family attorney announced.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said a judge accepted the terms of the settlement Friday.

The lawsuit alleges the police’s violent treatment of McClain was an act of torture and part of a racist policy pattern that has been linked to aggression and violence against Blacks. The medical staff also injected him with a powerful sedative.

McClain is a 23-year-old massage therapist who plays his violin for cats in a rescue shelter.

His 2019 death and his pleas to police on body camera footage – “I’m an introvert, and I’m just different” – have attracted widespread attention. after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked global protests last year.

Local prosecutors declined to bring charges against the three officers who confronted McClain, in part because an autopsy could not determine exactly how he died. However, a grand jury indicted the officers and two paramedics in September following an investigation by Attorney General Phil Weiser ordered by Governor Jared Polis.

“No amount of money can change what happened or erase the pain and heartbreak the family has gone through because of his loss,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement. news on Friday. “This tragedy has greatly changed and shaped Aurora.”

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson added in the statement: “Nothing can ever fix the loss of Elijah McClain and the pain his loved ones have endured. I am committed to learning from this tragedy.”

The lawsuit alleges officers used extreme force against McClain and that his struggle to survive significantly increased the amount of lactic acid in his body, which led to his death, possibly. along with the large dose of sedating ketamine he was given.

An outside investigation commissioned by the city blamed police investigating McClain’s arrest for not pressing for answers about how officers treated him. There is no evidence to support the officers’ decision to stop McClain, who was deemed suspicious because he wore a ski mask while walking waving in the street. He has not been charged with breaking any laws.

One of the three officers who arrested McClain was fired last year, but not for stopping him. Jason Rosenblatt lost his job for replying “ha ha” to a photo taken by other former officers of the neck at the McClain memorial.

Aurora police have been plagued by other allegations of misconduct against people of color.

Last year, the agency was criticized for handcuffing four Black girls who were detained in a parking lot during a melee over a stolen vehicle.

This summer, an officer shown on body camera footage hitting a Black man with a gun was charged with assault and had to resign. Sheriff Vanessa Wilson, who took over the department last year amid growing attention over McClain’s death, was quick to denounce the officer’s actions, calling it a “very worthy act. scornful”.

On Tuesday, Weiser and city officials announced the city had agreed to reform after a first-ever civil rights investigation by Weiser’s office uncovered a policy pattern of racial bias and violence. exceed.

A supervisor who will monitor whether Aurora is following the plan and milestones for about 5 years has yet to be hired.

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