AURORA, Colo. — A force review board will evaluate whether the Aurora police officers who applied a carotid hold on a man who later died violated department policy.
“If they find any issues that they believe violated policy, those allegations will be forwarded to our internal affairs for investigation,” said Nick Metz, the Aurora police chief.
Elijah McClain, 23, died in August of undetermined causes, but a forensic pathology consultant said he could not rule out the carotid hold applied by officers as a contributor to McClain’s death.
“The decedent was violently struggling with officers who were attempting to restrain him. Most likely the decedent’s physical exertion contributed to death. It is unclear if the officers’ actions contributed as well,” Dr. Stephen J. Cina wrote in his medical opinion.
Cina also could not rule out an adverse reaction to the sedative ketamine as a possible contributor to McClain’s demise.
According to records provided by the police department to the FOX31 Problem Solvers, officers indicated McClain briefly “went unconscious” during the carotid hold.
“(The carotid hold) should be against all police policies,” said Mary Dodge, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Colorado Denver.
Dodge has extensively studied cases of police use of force.
“I hate to second guess officers because I’m not on the streets and I’m not dealing with this kind of thing, but from what I’ve seen, they used excessive force on this young man. And it is rare for me to be that blunt or honest based on body-camera in these situations, but this does not look good,” she said.
Dodge said she believes officers should have de-escalated the situation.
“That it escalated to what it did makes no sense to me, especially with that many officers on scene,” she said.
Metz said he would also like to convene a tactical review board to review the case made up of force experts from outside of the Aurora Police Department and around the country.
“We want to do this to determine if there is a need to change policies, if there is a need to change procedures, if there is a need to change tactics, and if there is a need for different types of training,” said Metz, who also said he believed his officers did a “good job.”
“I think overall, the officers were trying to calm Elijah down. I think in every single situation, you can look at it and you can come up with things that we could potentially have done different or better, but again, I think this is where I’m going to be leaning greatly on my force review board to really go in and dissect everything about that investigation and come back to me with a recommendation,” said Metz.