Excessive force lawsuit filed over Colorado ketamine case

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DENVER | A federal, excessive force lawsuit has been filed in the case of Elijah McKnight after deputies restrained and stunned him and paramedics twice injected him with a sedative before he was hospitalized for several days in August 2019.

Civil rights attorney Igor Raykin filed the lawsuit on Wednesday against South Metro Fire Rescue, Arapahoe County, two sheriff’s deputies, and three fire personnel who were on the scene, KDVR-TV reported.

“There was really no other way to get justice for Mr. McKnight,” Raykin said. “We knew that no one was going to apologize for anything, and we thought this was his only recourse.”

The FOX31 Problem Solvers first brought attention to the case after McKnight, 25, was placed on a ventilator after receiving two doses, about 750 milligrams of ketamine following a drunken altercation with police.

McKnight is currently facing criminal charges in the case, including assaulting a peace officer and obstructing a peace officer, authorities said. A statement of probable cause for his arrest warrant suggests McKnight punched and kicked a deputy before paramedics arrived.

McKnight said the body camera video footage does not match with the affidavit.

Within days of McKnight’s incident, Elijah McClain, 23, was also injected with a heavy dose of ketamine in a separate incident in Aurora after incorrectly estimating his weight. McClain then went into cardiac arrest before dying in the hospital a few days later.

Ketamine is a fast-acting anesthetic that quickly knocks a person out. The drug is regularly used in hospitals, but paramedics are increasingly using it to help police arrest suspects they feel are out of control.

“It’s wrong that my life was almost taken, and Elijah McClain’s life was taken in a similar incident,” McKnight said, alleging in the lawsuit that deputies and paramedics used force that was excessive, unnecessary and in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment investigated the paramedics’ involvement in the case and found no grounds for discipline.

Arapahoe County Deputy John Bartmann said the office had not yet been served with the lawsuit but does not comment on pending litigation.

South Metro Fire Rescue spokesperson Kristin Eckmann also said the department does not comment on any pending litigation.