Aurora, CO Family to Receive $15M for Senseless Police Killing of Young Black Man

The family of a young Black man senselessly killed in police custody in 2019 will receive a $15 million settlement, while the cops and paramedics involved will face charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, according to a story in The New York Post.

The City of Aurora, Colorado, did not disclose the amount, but is prepared to issue payment when the family has decided on the allocation of the proceeds. The amount, confirmed to a local CBS affiliate by three anonymous sources, would be a record for the Denver suburb, whose largest settlement for police misconduct had been $2.6 million, paid in 2015. City documents reveal that “since 2010, the city has paid out $7.3 million in settlements.”

The trouble began when Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was walking home from a convenience store alone and unarmed on August 24, 2019. Police had received a 911 call from someone reporting a suspicious person in a ski mask. (McClain’s family explained Elijah often wore a mask because he suffered from anemia, which made him vulnerable to frequent colds.) Police stopped McClain, and an altercation ensued, during which police placed the young man in a chokehold. In a chilling twist that mirrors the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, McClain was heard on body camera video complaining that he couldn’t breathe.

As the confrontation escalated, three police officers restrained McClain so that paramedics could inject him with ketamine to subdue him. Ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic, and is known to cause troubling reactions in about 12 percent of users. Paramedics injected McClain with 500 mg, which is more than 1.5 times the dose for a man of McClain’s weight. McClain “went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead, dying days later when he was pulled off life support.”

McClain’s death made national headlines and sparked anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests. In Aurora, the tragedy prompted police reforms “such as new use-of-force policies and training measures.” In recent years, Aurora has been a center of refugee resettlement in Colorado, and is home to about 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans, as well as a large Nepalese community. Residents of color are naturally apprehensive when senseless tragedies like this occur.

Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, raised Elijah on her own. According to her attorneys, “his death has left an enormous void in her life,” and she is grateful for the community’s “support, love, and commitment” in the wake of the death. An attorneys’ statement reads, that “While nothing will fill that void, Ms. McClain is hopeful that badly needed reforms to the Aurora Police Department will spare other parents the same heartache.”

Compensation by the city is not necessarily a deterrent to police misconduct. Holding brutal officers accountable is. Police officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt and paramedic Jeremy Cooper will now face severe criminal charges that could lead to extensive prison terms. The nation should follow these trials as closely as they did the trial of Derrick Chauvin to ensure accountability and future deterrence.