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In Colorado, Aurora City Leaders Look At Next Steps In Elijah McClain Case

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's turn to Colorado, where a new report details failures at many levels in the death of Elijah McClain. He was a young Black man who died in police custody in 2019. Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry has been following the investigations into his death and has more.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: Officers had no reason to stop Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black massage therapist who was walking home from a gas station in the summer of 2019 with an iced tea. An independent investigation paid for by the city of Aurora found they had no reasonable suspicion he did anything wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. I have a right to stop you 'cause you're being suspicious.

ELIJAH MCCLAIN: Well, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Turn around.

MCCLAIN: No, actually...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Turn around. Turn around. Stop. Stop tensing...

MCCLAIN: Let go of me.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: ...Up, dude.

SHERRY: McClain was frisked and patted down. He was physically restrained after some back-and-forth. Police placed him into a carotid chokehold and threatened him with a police dog. McClain briefly fainted. Paramedics arrived. They didn't check him out, though, before administering a large dose of the sedative ketamine. McClain died a few days later in a hospital. Mari Newman is one of the lawyers representing McClain's family.

MARI NEWMAN: Every city, including the city of Aurora, needs to do a fair and thorough investigation of every single officer-involved death because the city clearly didn't do it itself.

SHERRY: The family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora and the police. After George Floyd's death last summer, there was renewed outrage about Elijah McClain. Aurora City Councilwoman Allison Hiltz says she supports broad changes.

ALLISON HILTZ: If we don't read this report and take action and start demanding internal accountability of our officers and make some very serious changes, then we need to ask ourselves whether or not we're fit to be elected officials.

SHERRY: Advocates are angry because no one involved in McClain's death, including paramedics, lost their jobs because of what happened. His father, LaWayne Mosley, said nothing in the report was a surprise to him, but he hoped those involved faced accountability.

LAWAYNE MOSLEY: I hope those police officers go to jail and are fired. And I hope the paramedics are - go to jail and fired.

SHERRY: State and federal investigations into McClain's death are still ongoing. The city's 157-page report into it will likely inform how policing will change, both in Aurora and possibly statewide in Colorado.

For NPR News, I'm Allison Sherry in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.