Colorado City to Pay $ 15 Million to Settle Lawsuit Against Elijah McClain

DENVER (AP) – The Denver suburb of Aurora has agreed to pay $ 15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the parents of Elijah McClain, a black man who died after police in the Denver suburbs arrested him down the street and put him in a neck grab two years ago, city and family attorneys announced on Friday.

A federal magistrate judge accepted the terms of the settlement after a mediation session, said Qusair Mohamedbhai, lawyer for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain.

Outside of court, Sheneen McClain said she was happy the deal was finalized, but noted that the work of fighting for justice for her son made her miss even more.

“Money is just a way for the world to say, ‘We’re sorry’, but it’s not going to help fill the hole in my heart,” she said.

The amount of the settlement was agreed in July but has not been officially disclosed until now due to a dispute between McClain’s parents over how the wording of the deal might affect their dispute over how the money should be divided. Sheneen McClain said Elijah’s father, LaWayne Mosley, was not involved in her upbringing. How the money will be divided will be treated separately.

In a statement, Mosley did not address the dispute but said he hoped the settlement would send a message to police.

“I hope Elijah’s legacy is that the police think twice before killing another innocent person,” he said.

Mosley’s attorney, Mari Newman, said the settlement was the largest ever in Colorado in a civil rights case and the latest example of a new standard of accountability for police since the murder protests by George Floyd as well as McClain.

The size of the colony is emblematic of the harm done to both McClain’s mother and the community, Mohamedbhai said.

The lawsuit alleged that the violent treatment inflicted by the police on McClain amounted to torture and was part of a racist policing model that involved assault and violence against blacks. Paramedics also injected her with a strong sedative.

McClain was a 23-year-old massage therapist who fiddled with cats at a rescue shelter.

His death in 2019 and his pleading words to police over body camera footage – “I’m an introvert and I’m just different” – garnered widespread attention after Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis sparked global protests. last year.

The local prosecutor declined to press charges against the three officers who confronted McClain, in part because an autopsy could not determine exactly how he died. However, a grand jury indicted the officers and two paramedics in September following an investigation by Attorney General Phil Weiser ordered by Governor Jared Polis.

“No amount of money can change what happened or erase the pain and grief felt by the family following their loss,” Aurora City manager Jim Twombly said in a press release. “This tragedy greatly changed and shaped Aurora.”

Twombly and other city officials called the settlement an important step in restoring community confidence, saying McClain’s death has led the city to closely scrutinize its policies.

“There is nothing that can rectify the loss of Elijah McClain and the suffering endured by those close to him,” Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in the statement. “I am determined to learn the lessons of this tragedy. “

The lawsuit alleged that the extreme force officers used against McClain and his struggle to survive it dramatically increased the amount of lactic acid in his system, resulting in his death, possibly with the high dose of sedative ketamine he had been given. administered.

An external investigation commissioned by the city blamed the police investigation into McClain’s arrest for not insisting on getting answers about how officers treated him. He revealed that there was no evidence to support officers’ decision to arrest McClain, who had been flagged as a suspect for wearing a ski mask as he walked down the street waving his hands. He had not been charged with breaking any law.

One of the three officers who arrested McClain was fired last year, but not for arresting him. Jason Rosenblatt lost his job for responding “ha ha” to a photo taken by other former officers re-enacting the neck grip at a memorial to McClain.

Aurora police have been plagued by further allegations of misconduct against people of color.

Last year, the department was criticized for handcuffing four black girls who were held face down in a parking lot during a confusion over a stolen car. Prosecutors said officers did not commit any crimes.

This summer, an officer shown in body camera footage beating a black man with his gun was charged with assault and resigned. Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who took charge of the department last year amid heightened attention to McClain’s death, was quick to denounce the officer’s actions, calling them a “very act. contemptible”.

On Tuesday, Weiser and city officials announced that the city had agreed to reforms following a civil rights investigation, the first of its kind, conducted by Weiser’s office, which revealed a model for maintaining racist order and excessive force.

A monitor who will monitor whether Aurora is following the plan and meeting the milestones over about five years has yet to be hired.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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