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Aurora Terminates Attorney Selected To Lead Elijah McClain Death Investigation

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - The city of Aurora terminated the contract of the attorney selected to lead the Elijah McClain death investigation after members of the Aurora City Council voiced concerns over his neutrality. Attorney Eric Daigle is a former police officer who specializes in use of force cases.

In a letter Tuesday to the Aurora City Manager, council members requested an independent, third party review of McClain's death. The 23-year-old died last August after a confrontation with police.

Elijah McClain picture
Elijah McClain (credit: Mari Newman)

City Manager Jim Twombly said the city is now conducting an audit of body cameras in the case. In a statement Wednesday, members of the Aurora City Council criticized Twombly's decision to appoint Daigle as head of the investigation.

"In asking for an independent, neutral, 3rd party review, it was important to us to begin the process of rebuilding trust with our community. Unfortunately, an attorney with a long career in law enforcement that specializes in defending municipal police departments from liability claims doesn't qualify, in our minds, as a neutral review. This is especially true considering there is a pending civil suit in this case," stated the council members.

In a tweet Wednesday, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said he would work with Aurora City Council to select someone new to lead the investigation into McClain's death.

McClain was walking with a mask on and groceries in his hand when he was approached by police. Officers were responding to a call of a suspicious person in the area matching McClain's description.

Investigators said McClain resisted arrest. At one point in the body camera video, an officer is heard saying, "He's going for your gun."

Body Worn Camera Regarding the In-Custody Death of Elijah McClain by Aurora Police on YouTube

"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 during a press conference in November.

During the confrontation with police, McClain was placed in a carotid restraint, a technique that was recently banned by the Aurora Police Department. The Aurora Fire Department was also called to the scene and administered a dose of ketamine to subdue McClain.

McClain went into cardiac arrest twice on the way to the hospital.

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."

Last year, the district attorney's office released a letter saying no charges would be filed against the three officers involved in the case, who have since returned to duty.

In a statement to CBS4 the McClain family attorney, Mari Newman, said:

"An independent investigation is long overdue. It should not take a citizen petition and public pressure for there to be an independent investigation when members of law enforcement torture and kill an innocent man. The City of Aurora and the District Attorney should not have to be told to do their jobs – they are accountable to the people."

An interim report from the independent investigation is expected to be completed by mid-July.

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