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City of Aurora settles civil lawsuit with Elijah McClain's family for $15 million

An attorney for Sheneen McClain confirmed that the settlement was finalized Friday and resolves the family's civil lawsuit.

AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora and the family of Elijah McClain formally agreed Friday to a $15 million settlement to resolve a civil lawsuit filed by McClain's family related to his 2019 death.

During a federal court hearing Friday morning, attorneys for the parents of Elijah McClain sparred over how millions of dollars that are part of that settlement would be allocated.

The two sides reached an agreement in principle months ago, but it was not made official until Friday because the beneficiaries were fighting over how the funds might be distributed. It's one of the largest police-related settlements in Colorado's history. 

"No amount of money will ever bring Elijah back to his mother. Ms. McClain would return every cent for just one more day with her son," her attorneys said in a statement confirming the settlement.

The city’s excess liability insurance policy will cover $10 million of the settlement – the maximum amount the policy will pay. The remaining $5 million will be paid out of the city’s General Fund. Aurora City Council approved the $15 million settlement agreement during a July executive session meeting after negotiations that began earlier this year.

> The video above aired in October: City of Aurora reaches settlement in principle on lawsuit with Elijah McClain's family

During Friday's hearing, attorneys for McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, argued that wording in the settlement agreement, which says the payee is the "estate," might prejudice her future arguments for how the funds will be distributed between her and LaWayne Mosley, who is McClain's father.

"There is no amount of money in the world that will make up for losing my son," Mosley said in a statement, "but hopefully this sends a message to police everywhere that there are consequences for their actions. I hope Elijah's legacy is that police will think twice before killing another innocent person."

Attorneys for the City of Aurora asked the judge to approve the agreement during the hearing, which would resolve the civil lawsuit and end the city's involvement. They argued that everyone has agreed to the settlement amount and said the city has no interest in how that money is distributed. They said the fight over the funds could continue after the agreement is made final through a probate court.

The finalized agreement came late Friday afternoon following a mediation hearing between McClain’s family members in U.S. District Court that was not open to the public.

 As part of the settlement, the plaintiffs will dismiss the city and the other named defendants in the lawsuit. Once that occurs, the city will make payment of the settlement amount to the Court Registry to allow the family members to continue their allocation discussions.

McClain died on Aug. 27, 2019 – five 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 walked to the store to get iced tea and was wearing a ski mask because he was anemic.

RELATED: City of Aurora reaches settlement in principle on lawsuit with Elijah McClain's family

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.

Just this year, a Grand Jury returned a 32-count indictment charging one current and two former Aurora police officers in connection with McClain's death. Two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics were also named in the indictment.

Those indicted include:

  • Current Aurora officer Randy Roedema
  • Current Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard
  • Former Aurora officer Jason Rosenblatt
  • Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic Lt. Peter Cichuniec
  • Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic Jeremy Cooper

Each of the five people indicted faces one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide.

The indictment was the result of a Grand Jury investigation launched in January of this year by the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

In November 2019, the now former 17th Judicial District Attorney declined to file charges against those involved in the case and in mid-2020 McClain's death gained widespread national attention following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

An independent panel looked into McClain's death and APD's response to it. The panel concluded that "the post-event investigation was flawed and failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record," according to the report. 

It was separate from an AG investigation into the practices and policies of both APD and AFR. In September, the AG released its findings and said APD officers engaged in racially biased policing – treating Blacks and other ethnic minorities differently than whites – and repeatedly use “unlawful and unconstitutional” excessive force.

It was recommended that the department enter into a consent decree agreement where there will be oversight as the department works to make changes. An agreement was reached on how that will work this week.

RELATED: Consent Decree outlines changes Aurora must make in police, fire departments

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