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Elijah McClain: Three key takeaways from damning investigation into 23-year-old’s death in Aurora police custody

A damning report released publicly Monday found flaws at nearly every stage of Aurora police and paramedics’ treatment of Elijah McClain, including how police investigated themselves after McClain died in their custody.

A three-person panel hired by the city used body camera footage, written narratives and interviews to compile the 157-page report.

Here are three main takeaways:

No legal basis for detainment

The three police officers who first contacted McClain did not have legal justification to force him to stop walking, to place their hands on him or to use a carotid chokehold to render him unconscious. The 911 caller simply reported a suspicious person and the officers did not have reasonable suspicion McClain committed a crime.

“The officers’ use of force did not appear to relent even after Mr. McClain was in handcuffs, becoming progressively more ill and less responsive, and surrounded by a large group of officers,” the report states.

Paramedics did not do due diligence

The Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics who responded to the scene spent minutes watching police interact with McClain before acting and failed to run basic diagnostics on McClain — or even speak to him — before injecting him with the sedative ketamine.

“Aurora Fire appears to have accepted the officers’ impression that Mr. McClain had excited delirium without corroborating that impression through meaningful observation or diagnostic examination of Mr. McClain,” the report states.

Failed internal investigation

The detectives from the Aurora Police Department and the Denver Police Department tasked with interviewing the officers involved in the violent arrest “failed to meaningfully investigate” the officers’ continued use of force against McClain, which included the carotid chokehold, a forceful takedown and leaning on McClain’s back while he laid on the ground.

Detectives did not ask the officers how they justified the uses of force and instead asked leading questions. Their report was the basis of the decision by the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to not charge the officers with a crime.

The detectives’ report “failed to present a neutral, objective version of the facts and seemingly ignored contrary evidence,” the investigation states.

Read the full story on the investigators’ report.

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