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Family of Elijah McClain Settles Lawsuit Against City Over Death in Police Custody

Elijah McClain appears in an image from the Law&Crime Network.

Elijah McClain (via Law&Crime Network)

The family of Elijah McClain, who died in police custody after suffering a brain injury, has settled its lawsuit against the city of Aurora, Colorado.

“The City of Aurora and the family of Elijah McClain reached a settlement agreement in principle over the summer to resolve the lawsuit filed after his tragic death in August 2019,” Aurora deputy director of communications Ryan Luby said Monday, according to a report from local NBC affiliate KUSA.

McClain, 23, died after an encounter with police on Aug. 24, 2019 that left him brain dead. The confrontation started when someone called 911 and reported a “suspicious” person who appeared to be walking and waving his arms, according to a report commissioned by the Aurora city council.

Police used multiple “carotid control holds” on McClain, forcing him to lose consciousness, according to the report. Paramedics also administered ketamine, a sedative, to McClain as he was handcuffed and on the ground. McClain subsequently suffered cardiac arrest and a brain injury. His family removed him from life support days later.

According to the report, McClain is heard throughout the encounter alternatively crying out in pain, apologizing, vomiting, and at times sounding incoherent. He is also heard begging the officers for forgiveness, and even complimenting them, before telling them that he was having trouble breathing.

It is unclear exactly when the settlement agreement was reached. In a court filing dated Oct. 8, U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter ordered the parties to file a motion by Oct. 29 that “would involve payment by the city of a sum certain to the registry of the court, the dismissal of the individual defendants, and the release of the city, along with the proposed order[.]”

The Oct. 8 hearing had been rescheduled from a late-summer status conference originally set for Sept. 2, 2021, according to federal court records.

“City leaders are prepared to sign the agreement as soon as the family members complete a separate but related allocation process to which the city is not a party,” Luby, the Aurora spokesperson, said, according to KUSA. “Until those issues are resolved and the agreement is in its final form, the parties cannot disclose the settlement terms. No amount was discussed in the recent telephonic court hearing.”

“The family of Elijah McClain has reached a settlement to resolve all civil claims against the City of Aurora and the officers and paramedics who caused Elijah’s death,” attorney Matthew Cron, who represents Elijah’s mother Sheneen McClain, told Law&Crime. “We believe the court is now going to determine the allocation of the proceeds between Ms. McClain, Elijah’s mother, who raised Elijah as a single mother by herself, and Lawayne Mosley, who was an absentee father, throughout Elijah’s life.”

“There’s no amount of money that will ever compensate Ms. McClain for the devastating loss of Elijah, who she raised as a single mother,” Cron also said. “She would give anything for Elijah to experience the full long life he so richly deserved. Since his death, her focus has been on insuring that his death will not be in vain, that his killers would face consequences for their actions, and that his death would spark badly needed reform in Aurora’s police department. With the Colorado attorney general’s indictments of five Aurora officers and paramedics who contributed to Elijah’s death, and with the AG’s pattern and practice investigation, Ms. McClain, those actions are far more consequential to Ms. McClain than any civil settlement.”

The defendants included the City of Aurora and about a dozen police and fire employees.

Three Aurora police officers and two fire-rescue paramedics are currently facing criminal charges in McClain’s death, according to a state grand jury indictment announced in September.

All five defendants face one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide, along with various assault charges.

The indictment came after the district attorney declined to prosecute the officers because he couldn’t prove that McClain’s death was a homicide.

At least one of the officers involved in the encounter with McClain participated in a photo in which he and other officers reenacted the chokehold used on McClain before his death.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from the attorney for Sheneen McClain.

[Image via Law&Crime Network]

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