Elijah McClain's Family to Receive $15 Million in Settlement.
Mr. McClain, a young Black male, was killed by police in Aurora, Colorado, in 2019.
According to city officials and the family's lawyer, officials in Aurora, Colorado, reached an agreement on Friday to pay $15 million to the family of Elijah McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit stemming from a police altercation in 2019 that claimed his life. Mr. McClain, a 23-year-old Black male, died after he was restrained by police in that city using a chokehold tactic that has since been prohibited.
According to Qusair Mohamedbhai, the McClain family's lawyer, the agreement, struck in principle in July, is the largest police settlement in the city's history and among the largest in similar cases in the United States.
Sheneen McClain, Elijah McClain's mother, said in a Saturday interview that while she views the settlement as a significant step in seeking justice for her son's death, "there is nothing that can replace what I lost." Additionally, she stated that the arrangement comes with its own set of drawbacks. "It's still blood money, because my son's blood is on that money."
A hearing will be held to decide how the compensation will be divided between Ms. McClain and Mr. McClain's biological father, LaWayne Mosley.
On Aug. 24, 2019, police received a 911 call from a concerned citizen who stated that Mr. McClain, who was going home from a convenience store, "looked suspicious," was wearing a ski mask, and was waving his arms.
Mr. McClain was held by the police, who dragged him to the ground and subdued him using a "carotid hold," which prevents blood from reaching the brain. According to an independent inquiry, Mr. McClain told officers he was simply walking home. "I'm an introvert and I'm unique," he reportedly stated during the confrontation, according to audio recordings from the stop. "I'm simply unique," he added. "That's all there is to it. That was my sole purpose. I am very sorry."
Mr. McClain said cops he couldn't breathe while being detained, and he vomited, according to the review. When paramedics arrived approximately 15 minutes later, they administered ketamine, a strong sedative. Mr. McClain suffered a heart attack on en route to the hospital and died a few days later.
On Aug. 11, 2020, Mr. McClain's parents filed a lawsuit seeking damages against the city of Aurora, 12 police officers, two Fire Department paramedics, and the department's medical director.
"Over the course of 18 minutes, defendants exposed Elijah to a series of unwarranted and harsh force techniques and unnecessary, carelessly supplied drugs, the combined consequences of which rendered him incapable of survival," the lawsuit stated.
Unrelated to the complaint, a grand jury in Colorado indicted three police officers and two paramedics on manslaughter and criminally negligent murder charges. According to Mr. Mohamedbhai, no dates for hearings have been announced.
"This tragedy has profoundly altered and defined Aurora," Aurora city manager Jim Twombly said in a statement Friday. "In the two years following his death, we have examined our policies, our prejudices, and our need to listen to our community."
Gov. Jared Polis signed a landmark law enforcement reform bill into law in 2020, prohibiting chokeholds and limiting the use of lethal force. Additionally, it enables litigants to circumvent "qualified immunity," a tenet that shields police misbehavior from civil litigation.
Governor Polis signed a bill restricting emergency medical personnel's authority to give ketamine earlier this year.
After a study into Aurora's policing revealed a pattern of racial bias and excessive force, the city negotiated an agreement with the state to make significant reforms to its policing rules and practices.
"Elijah was a lightning rod for social justice reform in Colorado," Mr. Mohamedbhai explained.
Mr. McClain was a massage therapist who adored animals and was self-taught on the guitar and violin.
His family and friends know him for his passion and resolve to improve his lot in life, an energy they claim motivated others around him.
Mr. McClain had asthma as a child, according to Ms. McClain. However, with his persistence, he developed into a strong runner.
"To be able to run for hours, for miles, was something both of us, all of us, were proud of," she explained. "He was overcoming all of his impediments; he was hurdling over those obstructions in his way and removing them."
Ms. McClain, who raised Mr. McClain as a single mother, sometimes living in their car and sometimes in hotels and shelters, has been influential in pressuring government leaders to act on police reform since her son's death.
"I've never witnessed such determination on the part of a father to truly advance our communities and to give meaning to Elijah's tragic death," Mr. Mohamedbhai added. "It demonstrates his brilliance, grace, and beauty."