Aurora moves to toss a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Elijah McClain

His death prompted demonstrations and rallies this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death and prompted Aurora police to change some of its rules.

A flower and candlelight vigil for Elijah McClain in Aurora on July 11, 2020

Kate Newton, left, and Taylor Bergeron bought flowers to place at the memorial during a candlelight and floral vigil for Elijah McClain on July 11, 2020, at Utah Park in Aurora, Colo.

(Alyson McClaran for Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The City of Aurora is trying to get a court to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Elijah McClain, who died in August 2019 after police tried to detain him and responding paramedics used ketamine to sedate him.

City spokesperson Michael Bryant confirmed on Wednesday that the city filed the motion in federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging the lawsuit fails to support its claim that the city was liable in McClain’s death when it came to proper training and supervision of the police department and its paramedics. The lawsuit was filed in August against the city, several police officers and paramedics and alleges they were responsible for McClain’s death.

Bryant said in a statement to Denverite that the motion is “an appropriate, commonly used tool to request the court review and determine which claims will continue forward in the case.

“The death of Elijah McClain was a tragic event and Aurora would like to work with the family toward a resolution that honors the legacy of Elijah and moves the community forward,” Bryant said in the statement. “The motion that was made this week doesn’t take away from that objective.”

McClain’s family lawyer, Mari Newman, said in a statement to Denverite that McClain was an “innocent young Black man” who was walking home “when he was killed by Aurora police and medics.”

“These court filings are yet another example of Aurora, and its police and medics, arguing that they are above the law,” Newman said in the statement. “We anticipate that the court will see these motions for what they are: a desperate attempt to avoid accountability for murdering an innocent young Black man, and to prevent Elijah’s family and community from achieving justice.”

McClain, 23, was not suspected of committing any crimes when he was approached by police last year. His death prompted demonstrations and rallies this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death and prompted Aurora police to change some of its rules, including outlawing the chokehold used by officers to subdue him. The changes to department rules have been introduced both by new police chief Vanessa Wilson and by the Aurora City Council.

Bryant said in his statement that no matter the lawsuit’s outcome, the city will continue changing and reforming its police department.

A ruling on the motion has not been made yet.

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