EDITORIAL: Move beyond politics and resolve how, why McClain was killed at the hands of Aurora police, medics

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Sheneen McClain, center,applauds a speaker June 27, 2020, at the Aurora Municipal Center. Thousands gathered to protest and pay tribute to Elijah McClain, who died last year after an encounter with three officers from the Aurora Police Department.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Nearly three years after Elijah McClain was killed because of a botched encounter with Aurora Police and medics, McClain’s family, and the public, can still make little sense of the debacle.

News this week from the Adams County coroner, regarding a lethal dose of ketamine injected into McClain, did little to resolve the calamity. 

On a warm summer night, McClain was walking back to his north-Aurora apartment from a nearby convenience store, where he’d bought a couple of cans of iced tea.

He never made it home alive.

As he was walking, a passing motorist noticed McClain was wearing some kind of mask and that he was Black. He called dispatchers, specifically saying he’d not seen McClain do anything wrong or commit a crime, just that it seemed odd.

When the first officer rolled up, he essentially pounced on McClain, alarming him. The officer’s body cam video made clear how aggressively he confronted McClain.

Other officers arrived, escalating the situation and terrifying a flailing McClain.

He panicked as police physically subdued him, and McClain began begging for his life. One of the officers strangled McClain with a chokehold causing him to faint.

Despite McClain having been forced into unconsciousness, when fire department medic’s arrived, they then injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful tranquilizer.  Medics had misjudged the 23-year-old’s weight, and he was given an overdose.

He never regained consciousness.

Weeks later, forensic pathology consultant Stephen Cina said the cause of McClain’s death was unclear.

The Adams County District attorney did not file charges against any of the police or medics involved in McClain’s death.

It wasn’t until Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser took up the case, presenting it to a grand jury, that numerous indictments were brought against police and medics. It was over one year ago.

Last week, Cina changed his assessment of McClain’s death, saying after reviewing information provided to the grand jury it was clear to him that the tranquilizer injection killed McClain.

“I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” Cina wrote in his amended report, released this week after legal demands by metro area media.

Still, Cina did not weigh on whether McClain’s death was accidental or a homicide.

Had McClain not been Black, or had he lived in a wealthy neighborhood, or had police not aggressively escalated the situation from the onset and then even more so as the event devolved, and had medics asked trained emergency experts for advice or simply waited long enough to see that McClain was in no way a candidate for such an invasive procedure, or had they accurately assessed their patient and correctly dosed him, McClain, indeed, might be alive right now.

But to indicate that McClain was simply the victim of an unfortunate series of accidents is shocking and repugnant.

McClain was killed by a collection of Aurora police and medics that let a racist, bullying, and incompetent conflagration spin out of control.

McClain did not commit suicide. He did not bring on his own death. And by no stretch of the facts did McClain deserve his fate.

Parallel to this, some city lawmakers are using McClain’s death in a sordid attempt to curry favor with firefighter union members, indicating that the medics who killed McClain with the ketamine injection are actually the victims in this case, wrongfully accused of causing an innocent man’s death.

Union officials and some city lawmakers are balking at recent changes in law and procedure, pushing away from ketamine and toward a safer tranquilizer, used when genuinely needed.

Such political theatrics undermines the public trust in Aurora medical rescuers and should cease now.

These medics regularly provide complicated, life-saving but risky moves, preserving lives. The insinuation that all medics are potential victims of unfair or politicized scrutiny based on the horrific and preventable death of McClain is repugnant.

If they persist, the city should immediately cease providing paramedic services to residents, and contract with local ambulance providers, just as Aurora has in the past.

These medics are hired, trained and paid to serve and preserve the lives of people here in Aurora. The city’s residents and businesses do not serve Aurora medics choosing to partake in criminal investigation schemes.

As to justice for McClain, the trial against his accusers is long overdue and critical to not only understand how and why McClain was killed, but so that Aurora police and fire officials can rebuild the public’s trust by ensuring that it can not and will not ever happen again.

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Don
Don
2 months ago

Ah yes, set aside politics while I slather nothing but politics all over this article.
Dave Perry

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Don

It IS an editorial, after all.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
2 months ago
Reply to  Don

Apparently the truth is too painful.

Elijah McClain was walking home. He was not committing any crime. He had every right to be left alone. He wasn’t, of course, and now he’s dead.

No one has proffered an acceptable explanation of law enforcement’s actions. Because there isn’t one.

Don
Don
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Would you expect to be stopped by police if you were wearing a ski mask? I definitely would because it’s not normal, it’s very suspicious. The police were never even able to determine his intentions or why he was doing that because he absolutely flipped out. If your child cannot handle themselves in public, especially with an encounter with the police, parents have a responsibility that they never let themselves get in that position. Hindsight is 20/20 but when someone calls the police about someone walking down a street at night in a ski mask, police have to assume the worst. A parent letting their child put themselves in that situation knowing they cannot handle it is to blame.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
2 months ago
Reply to  Don

Kindly cite the criminal statute forbidding wearing a mask while walking home.

The police can detain you briefly on reasonable suspicion of committing a crime. You can be arrested only if there’s probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. Neither reasonable suspicion nor probable cause existed here. Yet McClain is dead.

I once heard a cop say that being a cop is great because you get a badge, a gun, and the ability to screw with people.

That cop was wrong, and so are you.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

I thought we had moved beyond politics and race, as this event was decried universally. Is there anyone who feels this murder was justified?

We thank Attorney-General Phil Weiser for his role in this.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Lighten up Joe, you simpleton, no murder is justified. As a side note McClain was not murdered. As another side note, Phil Weiser has only brought sorrow onto the citizens of Aurora. Vote him out this November.

Gerti Ingalls
Gerti Ingalls
2 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

You are wrong in every comment, Dick Moore, but especially on the comment that Phil Weiser has brought only sorrow to Aurorans. I’m an Auroran and Phil Weiser’s tireless work on the consent decree, and his work on environmental protectiona and consumer protection has brought me TONS of joy. You can’t say he’s brought only sorrow for Aurora – maybe he’s only made YOU mad, but despite your decisions of grandeur, you aren’t Aurora.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
2 months ago
Reply to  Gerti Ingalls

Why Gerti Ingalls, while enjoying my visions of grandeur and my being a citizen of Aurora, I must state that I’m so pleased that you have TONS of joy brought about by a lawyer, Phil Weiser. Take pleasure where you might find it.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Do you ever have anything beneficial to add to a discussion besides ad hominem attacks?

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Yes, Joe , I do. I just don’t like to state my theories over and over. In this case the problem started and ended with Mrs. McClain. Not to mention Dave Perry who won’t let this case rest.

My question back to you is where ever did you come up with ad hominem? Only PhD’s use those type of terms and Google, of course.

Please excuse me, no need to reply, as that is just another ad hominem attack on my part, this time towards you. You make it so easy.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
2 months ago

Okay allow me to add fuel to this bonfire of virtue signalling by the ceaselessly commenting intelligent morons who blather about crap they barely understand from Dreadful Dave Perry who is
so full of self-righteous hate to the always dependable other voices that support or decrie these amusing but valuable editorials.

Okay here it is:
I think white people are often racist.
I think black people are often racist
I think Asians are often racist.
I think Democrats lie a lot.
I think Republicans lie a lot.
I think religious morons think they are on the side of God but I personally don’t think so.
I think it has been this way for millennia and only a fool would think it will change, at least where we all hug and sing kumbaya together.
Get over it
It is our jobs as human beings to try to incrementally better ourselves our families, Our clans , our races, our nations, our beliefs.
Don’t worry about others or what t hey are doing or not…strive to be the person you would like to admire in others. Hopefully that is not an asshole..
Because I don’t think there are racists as many like to see them..I think there a lot of assholes though…….
BTW I could care less what you think until it affects me….

Publius
Publius
2 months ago

If one views a person, in the summertime, wearing a ski mask, at night, in a high crime area as suspicious that is probably, statistically, well justified. They should call the cops. When the cops arrive and view the behaviour I would prefer they think of the unusual behaviour not as suspicious or indicative of a crime, or probable cause for a crime, since there is no way they could articulate that probable cause, but rather as being worthy of observation, or even inquiry. They should politely ask to speak with the individual. If the individual refuses they could follow and observe. But thinking they have the right to detain and inquire in an accusatory fashion is what allows the matter to escalate and in some cases, like this, tradgicly so.