Last August, police officers in Aurora, Colorado, approached 23-year-old Elijah McClain as he walked home from aconvenience store. The Aurora Police Department later said that a 911 caller had reported a “suspicious person” in a ski mask, and that when officers confronted McClain — who was not armed and had not committed any kind of crime — he “resisted arrest.” In the 15 minutes that followed, the officers tackled McClain to the ground, put him in a carotid hold, and called first responders, who injected him with ketamine. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and died days later, after he was declared brain dead.
McClain’s family maintains that law enforcement’s use of excessive force led to his death. The officers, however, were subsequently cleared of wrongdoing, apparently on the basis of questionable body-camera footage and an allegedly inconclusive autopsy. McClain’s case has attracted renewed scrutiny amid national protests against systemic racism and the deadly tactics that police often deploy against Black people.
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