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Elijah McClain died from ketamine injection, amended autopsy report says

A demonstrator carries an image of Elijah McClain during a rally and march in Aurora, Colo., June 27, 2020. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in police custody in 2019, died from a ketamine injection that was too large for his size, according to an amended autopsy report released on Friday.

“Simply put, this dosage of ketamine was too much for this individual and it resulted in an overdose,” Stephen Cina, a forensic pathology consultant, wrote in the July 2021 report. “I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine.”

The initial autopsy report, released soon after McClain’s death, found that the cause and manner of his death were “undetermined,” according to Colorado Public Radio. The 2021 amended report was released on Friday as a result of a public records lawsuit brought by Colorado Public Radio and several other news organizations.

The autopsy report was updated after Cina’s office received body camera footage, witness statements and additional records — materials that had been requested prior to the release of the first report, Cina noted.

McClain was walking home from a convenience store in 2019 when police stopped him, claiming he appeared suspicious. The officers put McClain in a neck hold and handcuffed him. When paramedics arrived, they injected McClain with ketamine. McClain died several days later, after being removed from life support.

After reviewing the body camera footage from the encounter, Cina said that McClain was “extremely sedated within minutes of receiving a shot of ketamine.” By the time he was placed on a stretcher, Cina said he showed signs of difficulty breathing and “respiratory arrest was imminent.”

The neck hold performed by the police officers did not appear to have contributed to McClain’s death, Cina added.

Even though Cina updated McClain’s cause of death to be “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint,” he still ruled the manner of death to be undetermined.

“Certain cases with a manner of death of UNDETERMINED may warrant prosecution if the entire facts of the case indicate that this is appropriate,” Cina noted in the updated report.

McClain’s family settled a lawsuit with the city of Aurora, Colo., for $15 million in November 2021. Three Aurora police officers and two paramedics were indicted on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with McClain’s death in September 2021.

An investigation after McClain’s death found that the Aurora Police Department displayed a pattern of “racially biased policing” and that the Aurora Fire Department had a history of illegally administering ketamine, according to a report released in September 2021.

Tags autopsy report Elijah McClain Elijah McClain Elijah McClain ketamine police police brutality
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