AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– The City of Aurora has released more information about how it will pay the $15 million to the family of Elijah McClain to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over McClain’s death. CBS4 released the information about the settlement on Wednesday night.
The City of Aurora’s excess liability insurance policy will cover $10 million, which is the maximum amount the policy will pay. The remaining $5 million will be paid out of the city’s general fund. The Aurora City Council approved the $15 million settlement agreement during a July executive session meeting.
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.
Sheneen released this statement on Friday afternoon through her attorneys, Sheneen McClain confirms the settlement of her civil rights lawsuit for $15,000,000. No amount of money will ever bring Elijah back to his mother. Ms. McClain would return every cent for just one more day with her son.
There will be an allocation hearing in the near future to determine the distribution of the settlement between Ms. McClain, who raised Elijah as a single parent, and the biological father
“No amount of money can change what happened or erase the pain and heartbreak experienced by the family over his loss,” Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said in a statement. “This tragedy has greatly changed and shaped Aurora. In the two years since he died, we have taken a hard look at our policies, our biases and our need to listen to our community. We will not waver from our commitment to have an engaged, involved and heard community, and city departments and agencies that embody the rich, culturally diverse community we serve. The settlement is an important step in moving forward with the city’s ‘New Way’ plan to restore the community’s trust in public safety, while avoiding a protracted legal process that does not serve the best interests of the city or the family.”
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.
“There is nothing that can rectify the loss of Elijah McClain and the suffering his loved ones have endured. I am committed to learning from this tragedy,” Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement. “Significant changes have already occurred and will continue to be implemented.”
“Our hearts are once again focused on the family of Elijah McClain,” Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Fernando Gray, Sr. said in a statement. “AFR will honor him through process improvements and focusing on compassionate care for all of our patients.”