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Family of Black man killed in police custody settles with Colorado city for $15 million

Police used a chokehold on 23-year-old Elijah McClain while EMTs injected him with twice the amount of the tranquilizer ketamine recommended for a man his size. His crime? Dancing while walking home from the corner store.

DENVER (CN) — The family of a Black Colorado man killed in police custody in 2019 finalized a settlement with the city of Aurora on Friday for $15 million.

“There is no amount of money in the world that will make up for losing my son, but hopefully this sends a message to police everywhere that there are consequences for their actions,” Elijah McClain's father LaWayne Mosley said in a statement provided by his attorney. “I hope Elijah’s legacy is that police will think twice before killing another innocent person”

According to the civil complaint filed by his estate, McClain was dancing while listening to music on his way home from the corner store at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019, when police officers tackled and handcuffed him.

For nearly 20 minutes while waiting for an ambulance, officers held McClain against the ground with two constructive carotid holds and threats to sic a police dog on him if he resisted, the family says. On the ground, McClain told police he was an introvert and a vegetarian. “Forgive me,” McClain told the officers. “All I was trying to do was become better.”

After McClain passed out at the scene, a paramedic injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine — more than double the recommended dose for someone of his size, 143 pounds. McClain died three days later in a hospital.

Aurora reached a financial settlement with the Estate of Elijah McClain this past July, which is represented by his mother Sheneen McClain and his father LaWayne Mosley. On Friday, however, Sheneen McClain asked the court to determine the distribution of funds before she agreed to waive her right to future litigation.  

“There’s one missing piece,” attorney Daniel Wartell on behalf of Sheneen McClain. “The stance Mr. Mosley’s counsel has taken is that the estate must be the only payee, and our issue is that is not what the parties negotiated for or agreed on. The requirement that only the estate may receive the money may result in Mr. Mosley receiving 50% of the funds, bypassing Ms. McClain.”

The city of Aurora asked the court to dismiss it from the case and leave the plaintiffs to figure out the distribution of funds on their own.

“The remaining issues are between the plaintiffs,” said city attorney Isabelle Evans. “The issues that cropped up are really issues of technicalities that do not involved the defendants at all.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Judge N. Reid Neureiter appeared to agree before calling the parties into a private settlement conference to mediate the closure of the case.

The parties signed off on the settlement Friday afternoon.

In June 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis asked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate McClain's death. Weiser in turn opened a grand jury investigation made up of undisclosed community members, who compelled witness testimony and reviewed documents.

Following the conclusions of the grand jury investigation, Wesier filed 32 charges against the Aurora police officers who stopped McClain and emergency medical technicians who prepared and injected him with ketamine.

A state probe additionally found a pattern pf racial bias and the use of unlawful force in the Aurora Police Department.

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