AURORA, Colo. — Elijah McClain’s mother on Monday read the lengthy investigation about her son’s death and “burst out in tears,” saying the 157-page report proved Elijah shouldn’t have been treated as a suspect when he was detained by Aurora police in August 2019, an incident that led to his death several days later.
“It made me cry,” Sheneen McClain told Denver7. “I just burst out in tears, because it felt like such a relief to hear those words that exonerate my son. It meant they couldn’t hide anymore from the truth. Everybody’s eyes are on him right now, all around the world, and everything that they did to cover up their tracks is appalling. It’s shameful for Colorado.”
The report — which was compiled by an independent team at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and commissioned by the Aurora City Council — called the city’s investigation into McClain’s death “flawed” and concluded that it “failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record.”
McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, had been walking home from a nearby convenience store when a passerby reported him to police as looking suspicious because he was wearing a face covering at the time.
The report said the events that led to McClain’s death happened quickly, but neither the person who called 911 nor the responding officers identified a crime that was occurring. Police claimed McClain was acting suspiciously, wearing a mask and waving his arms in a high-crime area.
But the investigation released Monday concluded that the officers failed to re-evaluate the threat McClain allegedly posed and quickly acted to arrest McClain with no basis he was suspected of committing a crime.
Sheneen McClain said the report released Monday “totally” mattered to her and her family.
“It matters that he can no longer be labeled a suspect,” Sheneen McClain said. “It proves that he does have good character, and it proves that the police were totally out of line.”
A key part of Monday’s report noted that while McClain’s autopsy did not prove that ketamine contributed to his death, paramedics’ use of ketamine — and the dosage given to McClain — was questionable. Police said McClain was in a state of “excited delirium,” though body-cam footage raised questions about whether that was true, the report said.
And when paramedics gave McClain ketamine, they gave him a dose of 500 milligrams based on estimating him to be 190 pounds. McClain was about 140 pounds, according to his autopsy.
“The fact that [ketamine] was used in such a way for no reason — it wasn’t even called for,” Sheneen McClain said. “It wasn’t needed, you know what I’m saying? He was already handcuffed. Elijah should have lived. He should not have died at all.”
Sheneen McClain said she hopes the report makes people realize “that inhumane humans are the problem.”
“It’s not about color,” McClain said. “I mean, we can say it is all day long. It’s about human rights. If we don’t start treating each other better, the world’s not going to get better. And it’s up to us. It really is up to us. And only the good people can stop the evil ones from doing all the things that they do and have gotten away with for years, for decades.”
The law offices of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, a Denver-based law firm that represents McClain’s mother, released a statement on her behalf earlier Monday saying she “is relieved that the truth surrounding the death of her son is finally coming to light.”
“The independent investigation that was commissioned and paid for by Aurora makes clear what was already known: Elijah should never have been stopped by the police, never have been arrested, never have been subjected to extreme force by the police and should never have been forcibly injected with ketamine by Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics. Aurora is responsible for Elijah’s tragic death by virtue of its employees’ unlawful and unconscionable actions,” the statement said.