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Aurora hiring team to conduct independent investigation of Elijah McClain's death

The Colorado Attorney General is also investigating the Elijah McClain in-custody death case.

AURORA, Colo. — The city of Aurora will hire a team to complete an independent investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.

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 city council members say advertised his experience on his website as “defending municipalities, police chiefs and individual officers from law enforcement liability claims.” 

Late last month, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman announced that Aurora City Council would meet to vote on a new independent investigator to look into the case. 

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During a virtual meeting Monday night, Aurora City Council decided the new investigation would be done by a panel instead of one person and approved the scope of that investigation.

The team won't determine if the officers should face charges but will instead review if police officers or firefighters broke department policies and what changes might be needed.

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

Governor 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 last week they were looking at potentially starting a federal civil rights investigation.

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9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said it's unusual to have three separate entities conducting their own independent investigations and they could "be tripping all over each other."

"The worst-case scenario is if these various entities come to different conclusions about the level of culpability about the officers involved in the McClain incident," Robinson said. "You could imagine how inappropriate it would be for a public relations, and just public trust, level if, for example, the FBI exonerates what the attorney general finds grounds for criminal charges against the officers or any other combination of outcomes."

Mari Newman, the attorney for McClain's family, said the fact there are a potential of three investigations is indicative of the quality of the first investigation.

"The fact that these three investigations are now underway really speaks to just how poor a job [17th Judicial District Attorney] Dave Young did and how poor a job the City of Aurora has done consistently up until this point," Newman said.

Young's office did not return our request for comment.

Newman said McClain's family is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Aurora.

"The federal civil rights system is an opportunity for a jury of human beings who live in our society to make the obvious decision and to give justice to the McClain family," she said.

Robinson said it's probable the new investigations will yield different results than the first one, though Newman said she isn't hopeful the city's will vary too much.

"It is very difficult to have trust in a government that has so persistently failed to acknowledge the civil rights violations of murdering an innocent young man who was just walking down the street," Newman said.

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 been walking to the store to get iced tea, and was wearing a ski mask because he was anemic.

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.

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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. 

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