Aurora settles with Elijah McClain’s family for $15 million

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David Zalubowski/AP
In this June 27, 2020, file photo, demonstrators carry a giant placard during a rally and march over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain outside the police department in Aurora, Colo. A drug called ketamine that’s injected as a sedative during arrests has drawn new scrutiny since a young Black man named Elijah McClain died in suburban Denver. An analysis by The Associated Press of policies on ketamine and cases where it was used nationwide uncovered a lack of police training, conflicting medical standards and nonexistent protocols that have resulted in hospitalizations and even deaths.

Aurora has agreed to pay the family of Elijah McClain $15 million.

McClain’s family sued the city alleging police and paramedics violated the 23-year-old’s civil rights during the August 2019 stop that led to his death. 

Police officers tackled McClain and placed him in a chokehold. When EMTs from Aurora Fire arrived on the scene they administered an inappropriately high dose of ketamine in an attempt to sedate him. McClain died in a hospital a few days later.

The $15 million is the largest known settlement for police violence in state history. Last year, the city of Northglenn paid out $9 million to families after a 2017 police shooting left one man dead and a woman paralyzed.

Elijah’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said on Friday the settlement money will not bring back her son.

“I’m numb,” she said. “I wish Elijah was here now and I didn’t have this pile of money.”

But she said the settlement sends a message that Aurora’s officers — particularly those who attempted to arrest McClain in August 2019 — were wrong.

“That’s what the lawsuit settlement says to me, is that Aurora, Colorado, (is) accountable,” she said.

McClain and Elijah’s father, Lawayne Mosley, have been battling in court about how to split the money, a situation that remains unresolved.

Mosley issued a statement through his lawyer, “hopefully this sends a message to police everywhere that there are consequences for their actions.”

In a statement from city officials, City Manager Jim Twombly said, “no amount of money can change what happened.

“The settlement is an important step in moving forward with the city’s “New Way” plan to restore the community’s trust in public safety,” he said.

Aurora will pay $5 million of the settlement out of the city’s general fund, with the other $10m coming from its excess liability insurance policy. The city council approved the $15 million at a meeting in July.

Earlier this week, the city announced it is entering into a consent decree with the state to reform both departments.

A grand jury filed criminal charges in early September against three officers and two paramedics on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges.

Two of the officers who participated in McClain’s arrest, Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, have been suspended without pay. The third officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired last year over a related text messaging scandal.

The two paramedics who administered the ketamine also face felony charges. The records in their cases were temporarily sealed, but should be unsealed by the end of the month.

All five are next due in court in January.