Elijah McClain’s manner of death remains ‘undetermined’ in amended autopsy

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FILE – A demonstrator carries an image of Elijah McClain during a rally and march in Aurora, Colo., June 27, 2020. A Colorado judge on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 responded to a request by a coalition of news organizations to release an amended autopsy report for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after a 2019 encounter with police, by ruling the report be made public only after new information it contains is redacted. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The autopsy report for Elijah McClain, the man who died after an encounter with the Colorado police and paramedics in 2019 has been amended.

The Adams County Coroner’s Office released the amended autopsy report on Friday to explain that McClain’s death resulted from complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.

McClain’s manner of death is still listed as undetermined.

“I believe this tragic fatality is most likely the result of ketamine toxicity. These deaths are usually classified as ACCIDENT. I do not have evidence of trauma or lethal asphyxiation during restraint sufficient to cause death,” the coroner explained.

The coroner’s office also said that at the time of the original autopsy report, the cause and manner of death were deemed undetermined because of insufficient information.

Since then, the coroner’s office said they received extensive body camera footage, witness statements, and additional records.

“After review of all material available to us at this time, it is my opinion that this 23-year-old, African American male, Elijah McClain, died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint,” the coroner’s office explained.

Nexstar’s KDVR has been covering the McClain case since August 2019, when McClain was confronted by three Aurora police officers, injected with ketamine by paramedics and later died.

There have been many questions about McClain’s cause of death after he was put in a carotid hold and given ketamine.

An undetermined cause of death case makes it extremely difficult to prosecute a case, legal expert George Brauchler said.

Three police officers and two paramedics are facing manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in McClain’s death and are scheduled to appear for an arraignment in November.

First responders involved in case

A 157-page independent investigation outlined several missteps in the police department’s handling of the internal investigation into what happened. The report even suggested investigators designed questions to help exonerate the officers involved.

Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order in June 2020, assigning Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death.

Dave Young was the DA for the 17th Judicial District when he issued a letter to Aurora Police on Nov. 22, 2019, detailing why he chose not to file criminal charges against anyone for the death of McClain.

Nearly two years later, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced there was enough evidence to file 32 counts, including manslaughter against five men. Three were police officers at the time and two were paramedics.

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