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Aurora City Council officially approves independent investigation into Elijah McClain case

The City Council also appointed Jonathan Smith to lead the panel of investigators.

AURORA, Colo. — Aurora City Council has officially approved an independent investigation into the death of Elijah McClain nearly one year ago.

During a meeting Monday night, City Council voted unanimously to approve the investigation, which will review if police officers or firefighters broke department policies and what changes might be needed. The investigation will not determine if the officers should face criminal charges.

The investigation will be conducted by a panel of at least three people who have experience in independent critical incident investigations, law enforcement and public safety accountability, civil rights, police and EMT training and procedures, use of force, and/or criminal justice, the resolution approved Monday night says.

City Council on Monday night also appointed Jonathan Smith to lead that team. 

Smith is the executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

City Council said they would like the investigation to begin as soon as possible but still need to chose the two other experts and need to get all of the relevant information to the team.

A resolution that summarized the scope and substance of that investigation was first unanimously passed during a meeting of Aurora City Council's Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Committee last week.

RELATED: This is what Aurora's investigation into the death of Elijah McClain may include

The resolution says the investigation will include:

  • A timeline of the incident
  • A review of all facts from the start to the end of the Aurora Police Department's (APD) Aurora Fire Department's (AFR) contact with McClain 
  • A review of relevant policies, procedures and practices including, without limitation, those related to calls for service, police contact with individuals, use of force, calls for medical assistance, ketamine use, and administrative incident reviews
  • A report that includes recommendations for the city to address the situation that occurred, and recommendations based on best practices that should be employed by the city in the future

Aurora was several months into a different independent investigation when it was revealed that the attorney doing the investigation, Eric Daigle, was a former police officer in Connecticut who council members say advertised his experience on his website as “defending municipalities, police chiefs and individual officers from law enforcement liability claims.”

There may be the third independent investigation into McClain's death being conducted simultaneously.

Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) signed an executive order directing Colorado's attorney general to investigate the case. And the FBI and Department of Justice announced they were looking at potentially starting a federal civil rights investigation.

RELATED: FBI, DOJ eyeing Elijah McClain case for potential federal civil rights investigation

RELATED: Gov. Polis assigns special prosecutor to investigate Elijah McClain case

McClain died on Aug. 27, 2019 – three days after he went into cardiac arrest following a confrontation with Aurora officers. He was detained after a report of a “suspicious person” in the area. McClain’s family said he had been walking to the store to get iced tea, and would usually wear a face mask when it got cold outside. 

Officers used a carotid hold on McClain and first responders later gave him ketamine, a sedative. He went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. A coroner’s report found his cause of death inconclusive, and the 17th District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against the officers involved.

RELATED: The death of Elijah McClain: Everything we know so far

Interest in the investigation into McClain's death has garnered national attention following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and ensuing nationwide protests, which brought attention to police brutality and systemic racism. 

RELATED: Protesters surround Aurora Police precinct calling for justice for Elijah McClain

RELATED: Petition for justice for Elijah McClain reaches 4 million signatures

RELATED: World-renowned musicians flying to Denver for 'violin vigil' in honor of Elijah McClain

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