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Elijah McClain Death: District Attorney Says Evidence Does Not Support Homicide Ruling

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - District Attorney Dave Young, who is handling the Elijah McClain case, issued a new statement Thursday, reiterating the finding that "the evidence does not support the filing of homicide."

Young's full statement:

"The tragic death of Elijah McClain has focused attention on the role of the district attorney, particularly in the 17th Judicial District. Media outlets have published widespread communication that I have "cleared the officers involved in Elijah McClain's death of any wrongdoing." This statement is not only incorrect, it does not adequately convey the role of the district attorney or the decision I was called upon to make. Consequently, given the degree of public interest with this investigation, it is important for me to explain the process, along with my authority and decisions with respect to the case involving the death of Mr. McClain.

"I begin with my role as District Attorney of the 17th Judicial District. I am one of 22 district attorneys in the State of Colorado. The 17th Judicial District is comprised of Adams and Broomfield Counties. Generally speaking, the role of the district attorney is to review investigations of criminal activity brought by law enforcement agencies within the jurisdiction. That review is limited to a determination of whether the evidence supports the filing of a criminal charge under Colorado law. The standard of proof for filing a criminal case is whether there is sufficient evidence to prove any violation of law beyond a reasonable doubt. This review process is the same for any individual suspected of crime, whether a civilian or a law enforcement officer.

"The incident with Mr. McClain occurred during the evening hours of August 24, 2019. The Aurora Police Department immediately commenced a criminal investigation that was presented to my office on October 21, 2019. The Coroner's Office made the forensic investigation available to my office on November 8, 2019. On November 22, 2019, I issued a letter to Aurora Police Chief Metz detailing the evidence and my conclusions with respect to Colorado law. The Aurora Police Department released that letter to the public and it is posted on our office website.

"Elijah McClain's death was both tragic and unnecessary. Nevertheless, as set forth in the letter, my role in reviewing the evidence is limited to an assessment of whether criminal charges should be filed against any person involved in the death of Elijah McClain. The forensic evidence revealed that the cause of death was undetermined. Specifically, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy stated that he was unable to conclude that the actions of any law enforcement officer caused Mr. McClain's death. In order to prove any form of homicide in the State of Colorado it is mandatory that the prosecution prove that the accused caused the death of the victim. For those reasons, it is my opinion that the evidence does not support the filing of homicide.

"Furthermore, although I may not agree with the officers' actions in this incident, in order to prove a crime, the evidence must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used was not justified. In this context, the legal question of "justification" is based on whether the involved officers held a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary. Based on the evidence and the law applicable at the time of Mr. McClain's death, the prosecution cannot disprove the officers' reasonable belief in the necessity to use force. Based on the facts and evidence of this investigation I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers involved in this incident were not justified in their actions based on what they knew at the time of this incident.

"Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain's death could have been avoided, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but rather, on the evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law."

The 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office told CBS4 they have received more than 10,000 phone calls about the case, and more than 2,000 emails in just a matter of days.

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

CBS4 first reported about the death following an altercation between McClain and the officers in Aurora in August of 2019. Someone called 911 to report McClain was "acting odd" and wearing a ski mask as he walked home. The caller told dispatch McClain was not armed, and had not committed a crime.

RELATED: Elijah McClain's Death Gaining International Attention

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

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 is heard in body camera video telling officers he wasn't resisting. He also told them he was an introvert, a vegetarian and was unable to hurt a fly.

McClain can be heard saying, "I'm just different. That's all."

He can also be heard gasping and crying. He throws up -- and apologizes. (WARNING: Some viewers may find the video below extremely upsetting.)

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

You can't see much of what the officers were doing.

"A struggle ensued to the ground where three body worn cameras did become dislodged, Metz explained in November.

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."

"Officers had a lawful reason to contact Mr. McClain," officials stated. "The force applied during the altercation to include the carotid control hold and the force applied during the altercation was within policy and consistent with training."

"The loss of Mr. McClain's life is tragic, and we continue to offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all those impacted by this loss," acting Chief Chief Vanessa Wilson stated.

The officers involved have since returned to duty. An independent investigation is underway and an interim report is expected to be completed by mid-July.

In Aurora, a group is planning a rally at Aurora police headquarters on Saturday, June 27 at 1 p.m.

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