Elijah McClain autopsy: Ketamine caused death in Aurora

The initial autopsy classified McClain’s cause of death as undetermined. The amended report from the Adams County coroner also mentions forcible arrest.

AURORA, Colo. — The amended autopsy report released Friday related to the 2019 death of Elijah McClain lists his cause of death as complications from ketamine administration following “forcible arrest.”

It also indicates that there’s “no evidence” that injuries inflicted by police during his arrest contributed to his death. During the officers’ contact with McClain, the officers threw him to the ground and put him into a carotid hold, according to the indictment.

Despite that, the amended report says they do not have “evidence of trauma or lethal asphyxiation during restraint sufficient to cause death.”

The initial report listed McClain’s cause and manner of death as “undetermined.” The report was amended at some point before three Aurora Police officers and two paramedics were charged with his death last year. Colorado Public Radio first reported the news, which 9NEWS has confirmed.

McClain’s manner of death remains “undetermined” in the amended report.

RELATED: Elijah McClain autopsy report amended

On Aug. 24, 2019, Aurora Police Department (APD) officers contacted McClain while he was walking home from a convenience store where he’d gone to pick up a drink. Three days later, on Aug. 27, he died at a hospital of undetermined causes, according to the Adams County Coroner’s Office.

The Adams County coroner said the autopsy was changed because of information that was revealed in the grand jury investigation into McClain’s death. The change was first reported this month, but the Adams County coroner said she could not release the amended autopsy report because it contains confidential grand jury information.

The issue was taken to Denver District Court, where a judge ultimately said the unredacted report could be made public.

The amended opinion in the autopsy report released Friday mentions that since the original autopsy report was signed, the coroner’s office received “additional material” including “extensive body camera footage” and witness statements.

The report also noted that some of those records were requested but not received prior to the original report.

After reviewing all of the additional material, a forensic pathologist consultant wrote that evidence suggests McClain received a dose of ketamine that was higher than recommended for his weight.

He went on to say he believed McClain would “most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine.” He also wrote, “I have seen no evidence that injuries inflicted by the police contributed to death.”

The initial autopsy said McClain’s death was undetermined and, based in part on that, the Adams County District Attorney at the time decided not to file charges.

RELATED: Grand jury returns 32-count indictment in Elijah McClain case

But, in December 2020, the Colorado Attorney General launched a grand jury investigation during which medical experts testified that it was the ketamine injection that killed McClain.

Former APD Officer Jason Rosenblatt and current Officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema were arrested in September 2021 after the statewide grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against them.

Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were also indicted.

Each of the five people indicted faced one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide.

Roedema and Rosenblatt also faced a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence, which is a sentencing enhancer related to that assault charge.

Cichuniec and Cooper also faced a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury. They faced a second assault charge for “recklessly” causing injury with a deadly weapon, which in this case was related to the use of the sedative ketamine. They also faced a sentencing enhancer for both of those assault charges.

In November of last year, the City of Aurora reached a $15 million settlement with the family of McClain, which resolved a civil lawsuit filed by the family related to his death.

The city’s excess liability insurance policy will cover $10 million of the settlement – the maximum amount the policy will pay. The remaining $5 million will be paid out of the city’s General Fund.

Suggested videos: Elijah McClain coverage 


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