AURORA, Colo. — An amended autopsy report released Friday revealed that Elijah McClain, a black man who died after a confrontation with police officers, died because he was injected with ketamine after being forcibly restrained.
“I believe this tragic death is most likely the result of ketamine toxicity,” the report said, adding that McClain received a higher dose of sedative than he should have. “Put simply, this dose of ketamine was too high for this individual and it resulted in an overdose.”
McClain’s manner of death is undetermined, according to the amended report.
The original autopsy report, signed Nov. 7, 2019, said McClain’s cause of death could not be determined, but new information that emerged during a grand jury inquest prompted the attorney general’s office of the state to order a second autopsy.
“The opinions rendered were based on the information available at the time. Since then, this office has received additional material for review, including extensive body camera footage, witness statements and additional recordings,” the report said. . “It should be noted that these documents were requested prior to the release of the initial autopsy, but the documents were not provided to us or were not provided to us in full.”
The amended report comes a month after state Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that two police officers, a former officer and two paramedics from the Denver suburb of Aurora have been charged and will be charged with one count of each charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among other charges. allegations in the 32-count indictment.
Officers responding to a call about a suspicious person put McClain in a chokehold and paramedics then injected him with the powerful sedative ketamine on the night of August 24, 2019, after McClain bought iced tea at a convenience store , authorities said. He died about a week later.
While not unheard of, changing an official cause of death is rare, said Ian Farrell, associate professor of law at the University of Denver.
“For there to be a second autopsy, you have to have some reason to think there was something wrong with the first one,” he said.
The five people named in the indictment will be arraigned Nov. 4 in Adams County, state officials said. They are Aurora cops Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema; former Aurora officer Jason Rosenblatt; and paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.
Weiser’s office declined to comment, and attorneys for the defendants could not be reached.
The new autopsy report was made public after Colorado Public Radio filed a lawsuit against the Adam County Coroner’s Office for refusing the news agency’s request for a copy of the amended report.
Colorado-based media and First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Colorado Public Radio, said the new report could play a key role if the McClain case were to be heard. judged.
“The prosecution team will argue in court that the coroner’s office initially came to a conclusion that was not initially well-informed,” Zansberg said. “Defendants will argue that the Attorney General’s office persuaded or twisted the arm”, from the coroner’s office and that the original autopsy was accurate.
The original autopsy wouldn’t have made a conviction impossible, but it was a hurdle, said Ian Farrell, an associate law professor at the University of Denver who is not involved in the McClain case.
“I don’t think anyone can plausibly say that if Mr. McClain had been allowed to go home that night, he would have died,” he said. “So at least in some sense they (the defendants) caused his death by the things that they did from a legal standpoint.
McClain had just left the store where he bought iced tea when he was stopped by police responding to a call from a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.
McClain usually wore a ski mask due to a blood condition that made him cold, according to his family.
Officers questioned McClain, then grabbed him when one of the officers thought McClain was looking for a gun in his holster.
Authorities said officers applied carotid control to McClain, a type of chokehold designed to restrict blood to the brain to render a person unconscious.
Paramedics called to the scene injected McClain with ketamine to calm him down. Inside an ambulance about seven minutes later, McClain had no pulse and went into cardiac arrest, according to a report released later that year by the local district attorney at the time. David Young. Doctors were able to revive McClain, but he was declared brain dead and taken off life support less than a week later.