The Adams County Coroner’s Office released the amended autopsy report on Friday to explain that McClain’s death resulted from complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.
McClain’s manner of death is still listed as undetermined.
Several news organizations, including FOX31 and Channel 2, joined Colorado Public Radio in a lawsuit to get the amended autopsy released. A Denver District Court judge ruled Thursday that the coroner’s office had to release an unredacted version.
“I believe this tragic fatality is most likely the result of ketamine toxicity. These deaths are usually classified as ACCIDENT. I do not have evidence of trauma or lethal asphyxiation during restraint sufficient to cause death,” the coroner explained in the report.
The coroner’s office also said that at the time of the original autopsy report, the cause and manner of death were deemed undetermined because of insufficient information.
Since then, the coroner’s office said they received extensive body camera footage, witness statements and additional records.
“After review of all material available to us at this time, it is my opinion that this 23-year-old, African American male, Elijah McClain, died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint,” the coroner’s office explained.
FOX31’s legal analyst George Brauchler said he thought there would be a change in the manner of death from undetermined.
“This also reaffirms what I think we all concluded back at the time the original report came out and that is but for the intervention of law enforcement Elijah McClain is likely alive today. That however is not going to bridge the gap between that fact and a criminal conviction for some type of homicide,” Brauchler said.
The FOX31 Problem Solvers have been working to bring you the most thorough investigations related to the McClain case since August 2019, when McClain was confronted by three police officers, injected with ketamine by paramedics and later died.
There have been many questions about McClain’s cause of death after he was put in a carotid hold and given ketamine.
An undetermined cause of death case makes it extremely difficult to prosecute a case, Brauchler said.
“I think that this report probably bolsters their claim that they’re simply not on the hook for the ultimate outcome of the death of Elijah McClain,” Brauchler said.
Three police officers and two paramedics are facing manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in McClain’s death and are scheduled to appear for an arraignment in November.
First responders involved in the case
A 157-page independent investigation outlined several missteps in the police department’s handling of the internal investigation into what happened. The report even suggested investigators designed questions to help exonerate the officers involved.
Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order in June 2020, assigning Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death.
Dave Young was the DA for the 17th Judicial District when he issued a letter to Aurora Police on Nov. 22, 2019, detailing why he chose not to file criminal charges against anyone for the death of McClain.
Nearly two years later, Weiser announced there was enough evidence to file 32 counts, including manslaughter against five men. Three were police officers at the time and two were paramedics.