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City of Aurora will pay $15 million settlement over death of Elijah McClain

Aurora, Colorado —  CBS Denver has learned the City of Aurora has agreed to pay $15 million to the family of Elijah McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over McClain’s death. The sum was confirmed to CBS Denver by three sources familiar with the tentative agreement.

City officials have acknowledged an agreement was reached, but said details would not be made public until the deal was finalized. McClain, 23, died in 2019 several days after a confrontation with Aurora police.

Aurora police approached McClain on August 24, 2019 as he was walking home from a trip to a convenience store.

A citizen had called police saying McClain “looked sketchy.” When Aurora officers approached McClain, the verbal confrontation turned physical and a chokehold was applied. Paramedics injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful sedative, and he went into cardiac arrest. McClain was not armed.

Days after the confrontation, McClain was taken off life support and died. A subsequent autopsy said his cause of death was “undetermined.”

His mother, Sheneen McClain, filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 against the City of Aurora and the police officers and fire department members involved in her son’s death. Last month, her attorneys announced the case had been settled in principle resolving all claims in the federal civil rights case.

They did not release financial details as Sheneen McClain and Elijah McClain’s biological father, Lawayne Mosley, are still addressing how the settlement will be split. A court hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

The $15 million settlement would surpass the $12 million wrongful death settlement in the case of Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in a botched drug raid.

While the McClain settlement falls short of the $27 million the City of Minneapolis agreed to pay to the family of George Floyd, it will easily be the largest in Aurora Police history, according to a review of past police civil case settlements.

From 2010 through 2019, a spreadsheet compiled by Aurora administrators and obtained by CBS Denver shows the city paid out $7,397,814 for the entire 10 year period. There were no settlements of police cases listed for 2019 and 2020.

The largest previous wrongful death police case settlement in Aurora was $2,600,000 for a 2015 death.

CBS Denver has learned that in 2019, when the McClain death occurred, Aurora carried an insurance policy with a cap of $10 million. Multiple Aurora officials say in this case, the $5 million difference between the insurance policy and the settlement amount will likely be drawn from Aurora’s general fund.

That $5 million draw likely won’t have a large impact on Aurora residents since city sales taxes are up. For 2021, sales taxes are up 15.2% or $24.1 million from 2020. For 2021, sales taxes are expected to total $47.7 million more than was projected.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney representing Sheneen McClain, said he was not at liberty to comment on any terms of the settlement with Aurora.

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