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Elijah McClain Death Investigation: Jonathan Smith Selected To Lead Independent Review

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - In a unanimous vote Monday night, Aurora City Council adopted a resolution calling for an independent investigation into Elijah McClain's death. Jonathan Smith of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was selected to lead the investigation.

ELIJAH McCLAIN credit Mari Newman copy
Elijah McClain (credit: Mari Newman)

From 2010 to 2015, Smith helped investigate civil rights violations by law enforcement for the United States Department of Justice. Smith also helped lead the civil investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department following the death of Michael Brown.

The investigation into McClain's death will include a three-member team with at least three additional consultants. Council members said they are looking for panelists with backgrounds in civil rights, criminal justice and medicine.

Police stopped McClain in August 2019 while responding to a report of a suspicious person. McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was restrained by police before paramedics administered a dose of 500 mg of ketamine. McClain went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance and later died at the hospital.

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In June, Aurora terminated its contract with the attorney selected to lead the McClain death investigation after members of the Aurora City Council voiced concerns over his neutrality.

The third-party investigation will not bring criminal charges. The team will issue a written report to the city council with policy recommendations for the police, fire and EMT departments.

The investigation will review policies including calls for service, police contact with individuals, use of force, calls for medical assistance, ketamine use, and administrative incident reviews.

In addition to the independent investigation, Governor Jared Polis has appointed the Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser as a Special Prosecutor to examine the case. The Department of Justice is also reviewing the case for a possible civil rights investigation.

The three officers involved in McClain's death were removed from patrol duty in June. They have not been charged.

One of the officers, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired over his response to a photo text message, in which three APD officers posed for a picture reenacting the carotid restraint used on McClain. The three fired officers have appealed their terminations.

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