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City of Aurora settles with McClain family for $15 million

Elijah McClain
Posted at 7:35 AM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2023-09-19 19:08:32-04

The City of Aurora has agreed to pay Elijah McClain's family $15 million in a settlement, which will be split between his parents, ABC News reported Thursday morning.

Once it's finalized, it will be reportedly the highest police settlement in the history of Colorado, according to ABC News. A hearing on the mediations is scheduled for Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Qusair Mohamedbhai and Siddhartha Rathod, the attorneys for McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, released a statement Thursday regarding the settlement terms.

"Ms. McClain would like to thank the community for its incredible support, love, and commitment to ensuring that Elijah's death would lead to meaningful reform," the attorneys said. "Ms. McClain raised Elijah as a single mother and his death has left an enormous void in her life. While nothing will fill that void, Ms. McClain is hopeful that badly needed reforms to the Aurora Police Department will spare other parents the same heartache."

In Mornings with the Mayor on Denver7, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said this settlement sets the bar at a level that he hopes will gain the attention of public policymakers and law enforcement around the country.

"This was an absolute tragedy, not just for the City of Aurora, but for all of us," he said. "We recognize we need to continue and double down on our efforts to improve police-community relations, but also respect the honor of humanity on the streets," he said. "Elijah McClain should not be dead today. ... I think this settlement proves the belief that something went wrong, terribly wrong, and should not have occurred."

The settlement was announced in October, but details were not available at that time. It came more than a year after a federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado over the death of the McClain, an 23-year-old unarmed Black man, who died after a violent arrest by Aurora police in 2019.

McClain had been walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019 after purchasing tea when police stopped him. Police said they had received a call about a suspicious man wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.

A family attorney for the McClains said police terrorized the young man for 15 minutes.

They put him in a carotid hold and paramedics injected him with a heavy dose of ketamine. He went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead before he died on Aug. 30, 2019.

His autopsy report, dated Nov. 7, said McClain's cause of death was "undetermined." The autopsy report references multiple abrasions on the victim's face, back and legs. It also references some hemorrhaging around his neck.

The family attorney told Denver7 that McClain didn't do anything wrong and wasn't a threat to anyone. She stressed that it's not illegal to wear a mask or swing your arms, and said the 911 caller explicitly said there was no suspicion McClain had a weapon on him.

McClain's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in August 2020 against the city of Aurora, the officers and paramedics involved in his arrest, as well as others in the case.

READ MORE: Aurora police to make changes to hiring, use of force, training under consent decree with AG

News of a settlement came a few months after a state grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against the three officers — Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema — and Aurora Fire Rescue two paramedics — Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichunie — involved in McClain’s death, charging them with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among other charges.

On Tuesday, Aurora officials and Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the terms of a consent decree the two sides reached to try to fix myriad issues within the police and fire departments that were identified in a September report following a 14-month investigation stemming from the death of McClain and other incidents.

This is a developing story and will be updated.