Elijah McClain settlement: Aurora to pay $15 million to 23-year-old’s parents

Aurora has agreed to pay $15 million to the parents of Elijah McClain to settle the civil rights lawsuit they filed against the city in the wake of the 23-year-old’s 2019 death after a violent arrest, a source with knowledge of the settlement confirmed.

The settlement is likely the largest police misconduct settlement in Colorado history and among the largest ever in the United States.

The amount was agreed upon in July but the settlement has not yet been finalized as McClain’s parents are negotiating how much each should receive, court documents show. A court hearing on the agreement is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday.

The source spoke to The Denver Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before the settlement is finalized.

Aurora city officials and lawyers for McClain’s parents previously had acknowledged that a tentative settlement had been reached, but had not divulged the dollar figure. CBS Denver was first to report the amount of the settlement.

The lawsuit, filed in August 2020, said Aurora police officers never should have stopped McClain, they never should have tackled and choked him, and paramedics never should have injected him with the sedative ketamine or used such a large dosage.

An investigation by a panel of experts hired by the city to review McClain’s death made similar findings.

Aurora police officers stopped McClain on Aug. 24, 2019, after a report of a suspicious person. The officers detained McClain, violently forced him to the ground and handcuffed him before a paramedic injected McClain with ketamine. McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, where he was later declared brain dead. He died Aug. 30.

McClain’s death drew little attention beyond Aurora and local media outlets until racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer drew international attention to his death.

Since those protests, the Colorado attorney general began a criminal investigation into the men involved in McClain’s death and launched an overall investigation into the Aurora Police Department. Aurora city government officials also paid for an independent investigation into McClain’s death as well as an analysis of the department’s policies and practices.

A grand jury in September indicted five of the men involved with McClain’s death — Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former officer Jason Rosenblatt and paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec — on 32 combined charges, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The $15 million settlement is among the largest police misconduct settlement in the United States. The family of George Floyd received a $27 million settlement, which the family’s attorney said was the largest pre-trial civil rights settlement in the U.S. Breonna Taylor’s family received $12 million after police in Louisville, Kentucky, shot and killed her. The family of Michael Brown won a $1.5 million settlement after police in Ferguson, Missouri, killed him.

The settlement is likely the largest in a Colorado civil rights claim against police. Northglenn paid $9 million to two women who were shot by an officer. Denver paid $4.6 million to the family of Michael Marshall and $6 million to the family of Marvin Booker. Both men died in the Denver jail.

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