Amended Autopsy Finds Elijah McClain Died From Ketamine Injected By Paramedics Called By Cops

Zinger Key Points
  • Police who stopped McClain said he was polite until he became agitated at not understanding why he was being detained.
  • Paramedics administer ketamine; the 23-year old never woke up again.

Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was forcibly detained by police in Aurora Colorado while walking home from a local supermarket following a 911 call that his behavior was ‘sketchy.’ McClain was a self-taught musician who worked as a massage therapist.

What happened: It was August 2019. Protests spread from Colorado to across the country as details of McClain’s unwarranted detention and death became public. His family, friends and clients joined a chorus of support for a man who was referred to as gentle and introverted with no arrest record. In fact, the police who stopped him said at the time that he was polite until he became agitated at not understanding why he was being detained. 

Paramedics arrived on the scene and injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful anesthetic used, among other reasons, to sedate agitated patients. McClain fell into a coma from which he never recovered. 

The original autopsy report had concluded that there was not enough evidence to determine how McClain died.

Now, three years later, the Adams County coroner has changed McClain’s cause of death to the ketamine injection following forcible restraint when the police put him in a headlock. Another probe also found that the police had no legal reason to put McClain in a chokehold.

The new conclusion, a drastic departure from the original autopsy, is based on evidence, including police body-camera footage and other records, which a pathologist for the county said he'd requested in 2019 but never received.

In the amended autopsy report, forensic pathologist Dr. Stephen Cina concluded that the ketamine dosage injected into McClain was higher than recommended for someone his size and resulted in an overdose. McClain was about 5' 7" and weighed 140 pounds.

“Simply put, this dosage of ketamine was too much for this individual and it resulted in an overdose, even though his blood ketamine level was consistent with a ‘therapeutic’ blood concentration,” said Cina per the Washington Post. “I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine.” Cina also noted that body camera footage showed that McClain became "extremely sedated" within a few minutes of being injected with ketamine. 

The updated autopsy was released Friday under a court order in a lawsuit brought by Colorado Public Radio, joined by other media organizations including The Associated Press. 

Photo: Courtesy McClain family, public domain

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Posted In: CannabisNewsPsychedelicsPoliticsMarketsGeneralColorado policeDr. Stephen CinaElijah McClainKetamine
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