By Anica Padilla

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) — The mother of Elijah McClain says her son was “erased from existence.” Sheneen McClain sat down with John Dickerson on “60 Minutes.” It was part of a CBS investigation into a life-threatening syndrome called “excited delirium.”

Victims are said to exhibit wild behavior and extreme strength. It’s widely used by police and paramedics to justify injecting someone with ketamine. A 2018 review of studies and articles found excited delirium was associated with more than 10% of deaths in police custody. Elijah McClain was injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora in 2019.

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Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain (credit: CBS)

Elijah Mcclain’s police stop was caught on camera. Video shows him pleading for air.

(credit: Aurora)

His mother says officers could have handled it differently.

“They could’ve asked questions before they hopped out of the car. They could have treated him like a person instead of an animal,” Sheneen McClain said.

McClain was walking home from a convenience store wearing a face mask in August of 2019. Someone called police to report a suspicious person.

The three officers who stopped him were joined by at least nine more, and McClain was put in a neck hold and forced to the ground.

According to their statements, and the district attorney, the police and medical workers said they thought the 140-pound McClain wasn’t making sense and showed surprising strength — which they took not as a struggle to survive, but as symptoms of excited delirium.

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The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association don’t recognize the condition. Dr. Paul Appelbaum oversees changes to a diagnostic manual used by psychiatry professionals.

“Excited delirium is a perplexing term,” Appelbaum said. It doesn’t correspond to any discreet reality out there in the world.”

In a report by Appelbaum, he says the condition is based on bad science. Adams County District Attorney Dave Young was interviewed in the report.

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He says McClain may have died from several possible causes, according to an autopsy, including excited delirium which contributed to his belief he could not win a homicide case against the officers who restrained McClain.

Elijah McClain (credit: CBS)

After being tackled to the ground, he was given ketamine, a sedative, by an Aurora Fire Department paramedic. He died a few days later. He was 23 years old.

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Watch the ’60 Minutes’ investigation into excited delirium here.

Anica Padilla