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Elijah McClain died due to sedatives, police restraint: autopsy

The amended autopsy report reflects the conclusion of the US grand jury that indicted police and paramedics in McClain’s death in 2019.

A black man died after a police encounter in Colorado state in 2019 after being injected with a powerful sedative after being forcibly held, according to a modified autopsy report released on Friday.

Despite the finding, the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was still listed as undetermined and not homicide, the report shows.

McClain was put in a neck hold and injected with ketamine after being pulled over on “suspicion” by police in Aurora, a Denver suburb. He was unarmed.

The original autopsy report, written shortly after his death in August 2019, came to no conclusion on how he died or what the type of death was, e.g. B. whether it was a natural, an accident or a homicide. That was a key reason why prosecutors initially decided not to press charges.

But a state grand jury last year indicted three officers and two paramedics with manslaughter and reckless murder in McClain’s death after the case drew renewed attention following the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

It became a rallying cry during reckoning across the United States over racism and police brutality.

The five defendants have not yet filed pleadings and their lawyers have not publicly commented on the allegations.

In the updated report, Dr. Stephen Cina concluded that the dose of ketamine McClain administered, which was higher than recommended for someone his size, “was too much for that person and resulted in an overdose.”

“I believe that without the administration of ketamine, Mr. McClain would most likely be alive,” said Cina, who also noted that body camera footage shows McClain becoming “extremely sedated” within minutes of being administered the drug.

The results of the amended autopsy report, which was updated in July 2021 but withheld from the public until Friday, echo an opinion contained in the grand jury indictment, which was delivered about two months later by an unspecified pathologist.

The pathologist had concluded that McClain died of complications from a ketamine injection while being violently overpowered and held by law enforcement and emergency responders. It is not clear if this pathologist, Dr. China was.

Cina’s updated report said there was no evidence that the injuries inflicted by police caused his death.

According to the indictment, Peter Cichuniec, who was supervising the paramedic team, ordered ketamine into an ambulance and Jeremy Cooper injected it into McClain. Cooper’s attorney, Mike Pellow, did not immediately respond to a phone message asking for comment. A message left for Cichuniec’s attorneys, David Goddard and Michael Lowe, was not immediately answered.

Cina acknowledged that other reasonable pathologists of varying experience and training may have labeled such a death in police custody as homicide or accidental, but that he feels the appropriate classification is vague.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, McClain’s mother Sheneen McClain’s attorney, declined a request for comment.

The updated autopsy was released Friday following a court order in a Colorado Public Radio lawsuit that other media organizations, including The Associated Press, have joined. Colorado Public Radio sued the coroner for releasing the report after learning it had been updated, arguing that it should be made available under the state’s Public Records Act.

Medical examiner Monica Broncucia-Jordan said she couldn’t release it because it contained confidential grand jury information and that release would violate an oath she made not to share it when she received it last year.

But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the coroner to release the updated report by Friday, and a Denver judge overseeing the state grand jury trial, Christopher Baumann, ruled Thursday that the grand jury’s information had not been edited.

McClain’s death prompted a re-examination of ketamine use and prompted the Colorado Department of Health to enact a new rule restricting when emergency responders can use it.

Last year, the city of Aurora agreed to pay $15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents.

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