An unarmed Black man who died after being placed in a lethal chokehold by police in Colorado in 2019 has now been absolved of any wrongdoing ahead of the incident that led to his death.
Aurora police had no reasonable basis to stop and frisk Elijah McClain on Aug. 24, 2019, a newly released state investigation into the 23-year-old’s death concluded. McClain died of cardiac arrest three days after police put him in a chokehold as he walked home from a convenience store. Arresting officers had previously insisted McClain had been stopped after they observed his suspicious behavior.
Police, however, “failed to ask basic, critical questions,” which would have aided prosecutors in concluding if the use of force was justified in McClain’s death, according to the new findings, Reuters reported.
Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard, who made a split-second decision to confront McClain, turned “what may have been a consensual encounter with Mr. McClain into an investigatory stop” without probable cause, the 153-page independent report found.
Paramedics, who fed McClain 500 milligrams of ketamine after officers restrained him, also neglected to properly examine the man, investigators said.
“[It] confirms what we have known all along: Aurora police and medics violated Elijah McClain’s civil rights, and Aurora did everything in its power to sweep his murder under the rug,” Mari Newman, a lawyer for McClain’s family, said in a statement.
His family said they were pleased to learn of the report’s findings.
"It was overwhelming knowing my son was innocent the entire time and just waiting on the facts and proof of it," Sheneen McClain told CNN. "My son's name is cleared now. He's no longer labeled a suspect. He is actually a victim."
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