About Ms. McClain and Her Son Elijah McClain:
We represent Sheneen McClain in her pursuit to find justice for her son, Elijah McClain.
Elijah McClain was a beautiful person. He had an immense passion for learning, which his mother discovered while homeschooling him from a young age. He was not only intelligent but highly talented and disciplined. He taught himself how to play the violin, guitar, and other instruments. On top of this, he had a fun-loving, affectionate nature. He deeply cared for the people around him and was pursuing a massage therapy certification. He was drawn to massage therapy because of its ability to relieve the pain of others. He dreamed that one day he would be so successful in his trade that he would be able to provide his services around the world. He also wanted to use the money he earned from massage therapy to pursue art, one of his many other passions.
Elijah was deeply loved by those that surrounded him, and he reciprocated that entirely. He was popular with everyone at the salon he worked at, co-workers and clients included. One of Elijah’s clients said that “he was the sweetest, purest person I have ever met. He was definitely a light in a whole lot of darkness.” Elijah had a gift of making others feel loved and important, even in minute interactions, always asking those around him, stranger or acquaintance, how they were. After these kinds of interactions, Elijah would bow, which his family coined as his “gratitude bow”, to thank those he spoke with for their conversation.
Overwhelmingly, Elijah’s loved ones described him as a positive person who avoided conflict. Elijah’s sister, Samara, explained that rather than engaging in an argument, “[Elijah] would just say, ‘I love you,’ and walk away.” He became a vegetarian because he was concerned about animals’ suffering. He refused to swat flies and would default to chasing them out of a room to cause no harm. On his lunch breaks, Elijah would play his violin for animals waiting to be adopted from a local shelter. He believed that music would ease their loneliness.
Elijah’s life was abruptly and unjustly cut short on August 24, 2019, while he was walking home from a convenience store, committing no crime and causing no harm, as he always did.
Around 10:30 PM on August 24, 2019, a passing motorist had seen Elijah walking home and called 911 because he thought he was acting oddly. Elijah was wearing a face mask at the time, which he was known to do because he ran cold and was anemic. The caller told the 911 operator that Elijah did not have any weapons and was not putting anyone in danger.
Aurora Police Department (APD) dispatched three officers to find Elijah, despite there being no need for this. Officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema were the responding officers. Officer Woodyard approached Elijah, who was doing nothing more than walking down the sidewalk, and demanded that Elijah stop. Elijah continued to walk peacefully towards home, calmly telling the officer that he had the right to do so. Officer Woodyard grabbed Elijah’s arm, and Elijah offered no physical resistance. He simply asked the officer to let go of him.
Officer Rosenblatt then grabbed Elijah’s other arm, and Elijah tensed up his muscles. The officers continued to yell at him and threaten him while Elijah tried to explain, “I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.” Again, the officers threatened to escalate the situation, and again Elijah asked to be left alone. He was ignored, and this pattern continued multiple times throughout Elijah’s last moments.
Officer Woodyard and Officer Rosenblatt’s body-worn cameras’ conveniently fell to the ground as they escalated the situation. Officer Roedema pushed Elijah’s head and torso down. Elijah was put in a carotid control hold, where the officer’s arm was used to put pressure on either side of Elijah’s neck, reducing the flow of blood to his brain. He was then tackled to the ground and put in another carotid hold. Elijah weighed about 143 pounds, and each of the three officers who were surrounding him was substantially larger than him. While on the ground, he was put in an “armbar hammerlock” which put intense pressure on his shoulder and arm. Elijah began to go unconscious, with his eyes partially rolling back in his head. He was eventually released from the carotid hold, and an officer jumped on top of Elijah, putting his full weight on him as he laid helpless.
Elijah began to retch and vomit. At one point, all three officers put their weight on him, weighing over 700 pounds. Elijah cried out, “I can’t breathe” and “I can’t breathe, please!”. To which, he was told to relax by the officers who continued to use force against him. Elijah was placed in handcuffs. During all of this, Elijah never attempted to hurt or injure the officers and never insulted or threatened them.
As more officers came onto the scene, Elijah cried out, “That’s all—that’s all I was doing. I was just going home. I’m an introvert and I’m different. I just don’t like—[inaudible]. I’m just different. I’m just different! That’s [moan of pain] that’s all I was doing. I’m so sorry! I have no gun! I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why were you [inaudible]? I don’t do guns. I don’t even kill flies. I don’t eat meat…. I’m [ ] a vegetarian. I don’t judge people for anything. I respect all life.” The officers arriving on the scene did not stop the use of force from continuing. Various officers intimidated Elijah throughout this, one threatened to tase him while another threatened to sic his dog on him.
Aurora Fire Department (AFD) arrived on the scene and made little to no attempts to evaluate or assess Elijah’s wellbeing. They quickly decided to inject ketamine into Elijah while ignoring his pleas for help and mercy. According to Emergency Medical Practice Advisory Council guidelines, ketamine can be provided in limited circumstances when a patient is exhibiting signs of delirium or is severely combative. Elijah was not delirious or combative. At this point Elijah was suffering from metabolic acidosis, which occurs when panic and strenuous physical activity cause a dramatic increase in lactic acid in the blood, leading to a significant drop in the blood’s pH, which can cause organ failure or death. His ability to breathe was rapidly decreasing as he continued to vomit and retch. Elijah was injected with 500 milligrams of ketamine by AFD members. The appropriate dose for someone of Elijah’s size who was actually experiencing delirium is 325 milligrams. Those who are administered ketamine need to be closely monitored, but the AFD members did not follow through with this.
Elijah was carried to the ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. In the ambulance, he stopped breathing and had no pulse. Elijah never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on August 27, 2019.