AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Aurora police announced no charges will be filed in the death of Elijah McClain, who was arrested on Aug. 24 and went into cardiac arrest twice on the way to the hospital. Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz announced the findings Friday from the 17th Judicial District Attorney.
The DA's office released a letter Friday afternoon stating no charges would be filed against the three officers involved in the case, who have since returned to duty. District Attorney Dave Young said criminal charges would have come if there was indisputable evidence officers used unjustified force, but he said the burden of proof did not exist.
Aurora police released body camera video of the arrest of Elijah McClain, who was placed on life support and died days later. McClain, 23, was approached by officers near Colfax Avenue and Billings street while he was walking home with groceries while wearing a ski mask. The officers were responding to a call of a suspicious person matching McClain's description.
"The officers, when they contacted him on the sidewalk, intentionally moved him to the grassy area in hopes of getting him to comply and getting him restrained," said Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz.
Investigators said McClain resisted arrest. At one point in the video, an officer is heard saying, "He's going for your gun."
"Elijah grabbed the grip of an officer's holstered gun. A struggle ensued to the ground where three body worn cameras did become dislodged," said Chief Metz.
Officers then put McClain in a "carotid restraint hold," which is an approved method in the Aurora Police Department to subdue a combative suspect. Chief Metz clarified that a carotid hold differs from a chokehold based on the placement of the arm around the neck.
According to a release from APD, the carotid control hold is a pressure control tactic that involves an officer placing his arm around the subject's neck and applying pressure to restrict the flow of blood to the brain via the carotid arteries. A chokehold applies pressure to the front of the throat and can potentially close the airway.
The Aurora Fire Department was also called to the scene and administered a dose of ketamine to subdue McClain.
"We assessed the patient, Mr. McClain, and we administered ketamine, which is based upon our department's protocol and actually it's a regional protocol," said Aurora Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Steve McInerny.
Chief Metz said McClain went into cardiac arrest twice on the way to the hospital and was later declared brain dead. His family took him off life support on Aug. 30.
The autopsy report from the Adams County Coroner's Office declared McClain's manner and cause of death undetermined. In the report, the coroner stated intense physical exertion and a narrow coronary artery contributed to McClain's death. The report also stated that the ketamine concentration was at a "therapeutic level."
"The unwavering opinion of Aurora Fire Rescue is that the actions of the AFR medics on the scene of the Billings St. incident met the expectations set by applicable protocol and policy," said Aurora Fire Chief, Fernando Gray. "Aurora Fire Rescue remains committed to providing the highest level of emergency service to the community members of Aurora. Our commitment also extends to our members who consistently provide professional service even under difficult circumstances. We continue to offer our sincere condolences to all those impacted by this tragic event."
"On behalf of the women and the men at the Aurora Police Dept that we first want to extend our sincerest condolences to Elijah McClain's family" said Chief Metz. "We certainly recognize and understand that this has been an incredibly devastating and difficult process for them over the last several weeks."
Chief Metz said his department is working with vendors to look at different kinds of mounting options for body worn cameras to keep them from falling off as officers make arrests. Chief Metz has also ordered a review of the actions of the officers to determine if the use of force was within department policy.
"If there are any violations that are noted by the force review board, which is comprised of high-ranking department members as well as members from training and so forth, if they find any issues that they believe violated policy, those allegations will be forwarded to our internal affairs for investigation," said Chief Metz.
During the press conference Friday, Chief Metz also announced that a Tactical Review Board will also review the case. The board will be comprised of force review experts outside the Aurora Police Department.
McClain's family is represented by attorney Mari Newman of of Killmer, Lane & Newman LLC. She had previously called for the body camera video to be made public, after officers showed it privately to the McClain family.
"It was difficult. It was very hard to see how everybody reacted inhumane. It was like there was no real compassion or concern," said Sheneen McClain, Elijah's mother.
Newman is holding a press conference Saturday afternoon to respond to APD's announcement.
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