DENVER (AP) — The Denver suburb of Aurora has agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died after suburban Denver police stopped him on the street and put him in a neckholdTwo years ago, the family lawyer and city announced their intention to merge.
A judge accepted terms of the settlement Friday, said Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain.
The lawsuit alleged the police’s violent treatment of McClain amounted to torture and was part of a pattern of racially biased policing that has involved aggression and violence against Black people. A powerful sedative was administered by the paramedics to McClain.
McClain, a massage therapist aged 23, played for the cats at a shelter.
His 2019 death and his pleading words to police on body camera footage — “I’m an introvert, and I’m just different” — drew widespread attention after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off global protests last year.
Because McClain’s death was not determined by autopsy, the local prosecutor decided against filing charges against McClain and his officers. A grand jury was nevertheless indicted the officers and two paramedics in September Following an investigation by Attorney General Phil Weiser, Gov. Jared Polis.
“No amount of money can change what happened or erase the pain and heartbreak experienced by the family over his loss,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said in a news release Friday. “This tragedy has greatly changed and shaped Aurora.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson added in the release: “There is nothing that can rectify the loss of Elijah McClain and the suffering his loved ones have endured. I am committed to learning from this tragedy.”
McClain was allegedly killed by McClain’s extreme force tactics and his inability to resist them. This may have been due to the high dose of sedative Ketamine that he received.
An outside investigation commissioned by the city faulted the police probe into McClain’s arrest for not pressing for answers about how officers treated him. It found there was no evidence justifying officers’ decision to stop McClain, who had been reported as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask as he walked down the street waving his hands. McClain had never been charged with breaking any laws.
McClain was arrested by three police officers last year. But, not to the point of firing him. Jason Rosenblatt lost his job for responding “ha ha” to a photo taken by other former officers reenacting the neckhold at a memorial to McClain.
Aurora Police have also been accused of mistreating people of color.
The department was criticized for holding four Black girls face-down in a parking garage last year after they were involved in an altercation over a stolen vehicle.
An officer caught with body cam footage showing him beating a Black male with his gun this summer was arrested and fired. Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who took over the department last year amid the increased attention on McClain’s death, quickly denounced the officer’s actions, calling it a “very despicable act.”
On Tuesday, Weiser and city officials announced the city had agreed to reforms following a first-of-its-kind civil rights investigation by Weiser’s office that found a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force.
Aurora has not yet been assigned a monitor to ensure that the plan is being followed and Aurora meets all milestones within five years.