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Review board clears Aurora officers in altercation that sent man into cardiac arrest

In August 2019, Elijah McClain, 23, struggled with officers while being taken into custody. He went into cardiac arrest after rescue workers administered medication.
Credit: Courtesy McClain family

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department (APD) on Thursday said force applied during an altercation which eventually resulted in the death of a man was within policy and consistent with training as determined by a Force Review Board (FRB). 

In August 2019, Elijah McClain, 23, struggled with officers while being taken into custody. He went into cardiac arrest after rescue workers administered medication to calm him down.

McClain was pronounced dead on Aug. 27, 2019.

RELATED: Autopsy report released for man who died following struggle with Aurora police

RELATED: Family of man who died following struggle with Aurora police calls for independent investigation

APD said based on all the available information, the FRB concluded that the officers were called to the area to investigate a suspicious person. Officers had a lawful reason to contact McClain. The force applied during the altercation to include the carotid control hold and the force applied during the altercation was within policy and consistent with training.

“The loss of Mr. McClain’s life is tragic, and we continue to offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all those impacted by this loss, “ APD Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a release Thursday from APD.

In November, APD said that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers involved. 

RELATED: No criminal charges will be filed after man dies following struggle with Aurora police

McClain's family said he was walking to get an ice tea for his brother and would usually wear a face mask "when it's cold."

APD said officers tried to make contact with McClain, who would not stop walking down the street from the officer. McClain "resisted contact, a struggle ensued and he was taken into custody," according to APD.

Then-police Cheif Nick Metz said that during the struggle, McClain repeatedly reached for officers' weapons. In APD body camera footage, officers are heard yelling "he's going for your gun" and other similar phrases.

The FRB consists of a body of sworn officers that reviews incidents involving an officer’s use of any weapon to overcome a subject’s resistance, or when a subject is injured by an officer’s application of force which requires medical treatment, according to APD. Additionally, the FRB can convene to review any incidents deemed necessary by the Aurora Police Department Executive staff. The FRB reviews these cases for compliance with applicable state statutes and department directives, as well as any training deficiencies.

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly on Thursday released a statement saying he's initiating a Critical Incident Review of how the Aurora police and fire departments responded in the McClain case.

He also said he's launching an official audit of APD's body-worn cameras to "take a critical look at our policies, how well APD complies with policies, laws and best practices related to the use of body-worn cameras, as well as the equipment itself."

McClain's family released a statement Thursday through their attorney, Mari Newman:

Aurora has just released a statement to the media claiming that officers followed Aurora’s policy and training when they killed Elijah McClain, an innocent young man who was not suspected of any crime, had no weapon, had no criminal history, and had done absolutely nothing wrong. He was just trying to walk home.

APD officers confronted this innocent, unarmed man by immediately going hands on, grabbing Elijah, throwing him down, applying a carotid choke hold—twice—and continuing to inflict multiple other types of force even after Elijah’s hands were cuffed behind his back. As Elijah lay crying, begging, and then vomiting, an APD officer threated to unleash a dog to attack him. Outrageously, Aurora has concluded that this force was “within policy and consistent with training.” The community should be horrified. 

Aurora keeps promising “transparency,” but tonight’s late hour press release is yet another example of Aurora doing its best to keep Elijah’s family and the community in the dark.

We are disappointed, but not surprised, that once again, Aurora has condoned its officers’ killing of an unarmed black man.

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