Elijah McClain independent death report faults overall police treatment

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DENVER (NewsNation Now) — An investigation into the arrest of Elijah McClain in suburban Denver criticizes how police handled the entire incident, faulting officers for their quick, aggressive treatment of the 23-year-old Black man and the department overall for having a weak accountability system.

The report from the investigation commissioned by the city of Aurora was released Monday.

It recommends the police department conduct several reviews, including of how its officers are trained to decide whether to stop, frisk and arrest people, and urges the city to consider overhauling how it reviews incidents.

“The speed at which these officers acted to take Mr. McClain into custody, their apparent failure to assess whether there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed, and the unity with which the three officers acted suggest several potential training or supervision weaknesses,” the report said.

McClain died in 2019 after being put in a neckhold and being injected with ketamine as a sedative after someone reported him as suspicious as he walked down the street wearing a ski mask. His death drew renewed attention last year amid the national reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice and prompted several investigations, including a probe into possible criminal charges by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

Aurora asked outside investigators to look into the actions of police, firefighters and paramedics in McClain’s arrest and also at relevant policies and practices. In the report, the investigators said their task was to try to help prevent another tragedy like McClain’s death, not assign blame.

The report concluded that “the post-event investigation was flawed and failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record.”

“These facts trouble the Panel. However, it was not our charge to assess whether misconduct occurred; rather, our task was simply to report what we could learn from the record and make policy recommendations,” the report said.

In the interest of transparency, city management immediately disclosed the findings so the public can prepare to view the presentation by investigators before the Aurora City Council Monday night, NewsNation affiliate KDVR reported.

“We felt it was important for the public to see the results of the investigation at the same time we received them,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said. “We welcomed how comprehensive and thorough the investigators were over the last six months. We are currently reviewing their report and look forward to hearing additional context during their presentation before we comment further. City management will work with the Mayor and City Council in coming days and weeks to assure the appropriate next steps are taken.”

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The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KDVR contributed to this report. All reporting by AP’s Patty Nieberg and Colleen Slevin, as well as KDVR’s web team.

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