A Colorado grand jury on Wednesday, September 1, returned a 32-count indictment against police officers and paramedics in the murder of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man who died in 2019.
Three officers and two paramedics were each charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
McClain’s death by police and paramedics renewed attention to police brutality, a year before the death of George Floyd’s May 2020 murder in Minneapolis.
In August 2019, McClain, a massage therapist, pleaded with officers to release him after being stopped and restrained while walking home from a store. A citizen called police saying McClain looked suspicious as he wore a ski mask. When he was held by police, he told them, “Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect my boundaries that I am speaking.”
Officers put McClain in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine in suburban Denver before he suffered cardiac arrest and was eventually declared brain dead. He was taken off life support on August 30, 2019.
In February 2021, an investigative report ordered by the City Council found that the police officers involved in McClain’s death did not have the legal basis to stop, restrain, or frisk him. The report questioned the police officers’ statements, criticized the medical responders’ decision to inject McClain with a sedative, and admonished the police department for failing to do serious questioning of the officers following McClain’s death.
Lawmakers said Aurora, Colorado, police had no legal basis to stop McClain and their use of a carotid chokehold led state lawmakers to ban law enforcement from using the restraint technique.
Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury to charge the officers and paramedics came 14 months after Colorado Governor Jared Polis called for Colorado Attorney
General Phil Weiser to investigate the death and appointed Weiser as a special prosecutor.
The local district attorney in Aurora, Colorado, had previously reviewed the McClain case and determined no charges could be filed against the police or paramedics.