By Brian Maass

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) CBS4 has learned the City of Aurora has agreed to pay $15 million to the family of Elijah McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over McClain’s death. The sum was confirmed to CBS4 by three sources familiar with the tentative agreement.

All requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak about the settlement.

City officials have acknowledged an agreement was reached, but said details would not be made public until the deal was finalized.

“The city of Aurora and the family of Elijah McClain reached a settlement agreement in principle over the summer to resolve the lawsuit filed after his tragic death in August 2019. City leaders are prepared to sign the agreement as soon as the family members complete a separate but related allocation process to which the city is not a party. Until those issues are resolved and the agreement is in its final form, the parties cannot disclose the settlement terms,” they wrote.

McClain, 23, died in 2019 several days after a confrontation with Aurora police.

(credit: Aurora)

Aurora police approached McClain on Aug. 24, 2019 as he was walking home from a trip to a convenience store.

A citizen had called police saying McClain “looked sketchy.” When Aurora officers approached McClain, the verbal confrontation turned physical and a chokehold was applied. Paramedics injected McClain with ketamine, a powerful sedative, and he went into cardiac arrest. McClain was not armed.

Days after the confrontation, McClain was taken off life support and died. A subsequent autopsy said his cause of death was “undetermined.”

His mother, Sheneen McClain, filed a federal lawsuit along with his father in 2020 against the City of Aurora and the police officers and fire department members involved in her son’s death. Last month, her attorneys announced the case had been settled in principle resolving all claims in the federal civil rights case.

They did not release financial details as Sheneen McClain and Elijah McClain’s biological father, Lawayne Mosley, are still addressing how the settlement will be split. A court hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

The $15 million settlement would surpass the $12 million wrongful death settlement in the case of Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky in a botched drug raid.

While the McClain settlement falls short of the $27 million the City of Minneapolis agreed to pay to the family of George Floyd, it will easily be the largest in Aurora Police history according to a review of past police civil case settlements.

(credit: CBS)

From 2010 through 2019, a spreadsheet compiled by Aurora administrators and obtained by CBS4 shows the city paid out $7,397,814 for the entire 10 year period. There were no settlements of police cases listed for 2019 and 2020.

The largest previous wrongful death police case settlement in Aurora was $2,600,000 for a 2015 death.

CBS4 has learned that in 2019, when the McClain death occurred, Aurora carried an insurance policy with a cap of $10 million. Multiple Aurora officials say in this case, the $5 million difference between the  insurance policy and the settlement amount will likely be drawn from Aurora’s general fund.

That $5 million draw likely won’t have a large impact on Aurora residents since city sales taxes are up. For 2021, sales taxes are up 15.2% or $24.1 million from 2020. For 2021, sales taxes are expected to total $47.7 million more than was projected.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney representing Sheneen McClain, said he was not at liberty to comment on any terms of the settlement with Aurora.

Mari Newman, who represents Elijah McClain’s father, said she could not comment on terms of the settlement.

A state grand jury has indicted the three Aurora police officers and two paramedics involved in McClain’s death. Charges range from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide.

Major police related settlements:

  • George Floyd – City of Minneapolis paid $27 million for Floyd’s death
  • Elijah McClain – Aurora, Colorado. agrees to pay $15 million in pretrial settlement
  • Breonna Taylor – Louisville, Ky. agrees to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and reform police practices following no-knock raid
  • Laquan McDonald – Chicago paid the 17 year old’s family $5 million after he was shot and killed by police
  • Freddie Gray – Baltimore settled with Gray’s family for $6.4 million in 2015 over Gray’s in-custody death
  • Philando Castile – St. Anthony, Minnesota paid Castile’s mother $3 million and another $800,000 to his girlfriend after an officer shot and killed Castile

Legal representatives for Sheneen McClain released a statement following the publication of this story. It read as follows:

“Ms. McClain would like to thank the community for its incredible support, love, and commitment to ensuring that Elijah’s death would lead to meaningful reform. Ms. McClain raised Elijah as a single mother and his death has left an enormous void in her life. While nothing will fill that void, Ms. McClain is hopeful that badly needed reforms to the Aurora Police Department will spare other parents the same heartache.”

Brian Maass