Elijah McClain Died of Sedation, Police Restraint: Autopsy | Black Lives Matter News

A black man in the US state of Colorado died in 2019 after a police encounter after being injected with a powerful sedative after being restrained, according to a revised autopsy report released Friday.

Despite the finding, the death of 23-year-old massage therapist Elijah McClain was still undetermined and not a homicide, according to the report.

McClain was gagged and injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in the Denver suburb of Aurora for being “suspicious.” He was unarmed.

The original autopsy report, conducted shortly after her death in August 2019, did not conclude how she died or what type of death it was, such as whether it was natural, accidental or a homicide. That was the main reason prosecutors initially decided not to press charges.

But a state grand jury indicted three officers and two paramedics in McClain’s death last year on manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges after the case gained renewed attention following the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

It became a rallying cry throughout the United States during a reckoning with racism and police brutality.

The five defendants have yet to enter pleas and their lawyers have not commented publicly on the allegations.

In an updated report, Dr. Stephen Cina concluded that the dose of ketamine given to McClain, which was higher than recommended for a person of his size, “was too much for that person and caused an overdose.”

“I believe Mr. McClain would very likely be alive if the ketamine was not administered,” said Cina, who also noted that body camera footage shows McClain becoming “extremely sedated” within minutes of being administered the drug.

The findings of the revised autopsy report, updated in July 2021 but withheld from the public until Friday, reflect an opinion contained in a grand jury indictment filed about two months later by an unspecified pathologist.

A pathologist concluded that McClain died of complications from a ketamine injection when he was violently subdued and restrained by law enforcement and first responders. It is not clear if that pathologist was Dr. Cina.

According to Cina’s updated report, there is no evidence that police-inflicted injuries caused his death.

According to the indictment, Peter Cichuniec, who supervised the paramedic team, ordered ketamine from the emergency room and Jeremy Cooper injected it into McClain. Cooper’s attorney, Mike Pellow, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. A message left for Cichuniec’s attorneys, David Goddard and Michael Lowe, was not immediately returned.

Cina testified that other reasonable pathologists with different experience and training might have labeled such a death as a homicide or an accident while in police custody, but he felt the appropriate classification was undetermined.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, declined a request for comment.

The updated autopsy was released Friday under a court order in a lawsuit filed by Colorado Public Radio and joined by 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 an oath she took last year not to share when she obtained it.

But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the coroner to release an updated report by Friday, and Denver Judge Christopher Baumann, who presides over state grand jury proceedings, ruled Thursday that juror information was not changed.

McClain’s death sparked renewed scrutiny of ketamine use and prompted the Colorado Department of Health to issue a new rule restricting its use by emergency responders.

Last year, the city of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit brought by McClain’s parents.

The lawsuit alleged that the force officers used against McClain and his struggle to survive caused a sharp increase in the amount of lactic acid in his system that led to his death, possibly along with the high dose of ketamine he was given.

An outside investigation commissioned by the city faulted the police investigation into McClain’s arrest for not demanding answers about how officers treated him. It emerged there was no evidence to justify the officers’ decision to stop McClain, who was reported to be suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask while waving in the street. He was not accused of breaking any law.