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'Excited Delirium': Elijah McClain's Mother Talks To '60 Minutes' About Use Of Ketamine To Sedate Suspects

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) -- The mother of Elijah McClain says her son was "erased from existence." Sheneen McClain sat down with John Dickerson on "60 Minutes." It was part of a CBS investigation into a life-threatening syndrome called "excited delirium."

Victims are said to exhibit wild behavior and extreme strength. It's widely used by police and paramedics to justify injecting someone with ketamine. A 2018 review of studies and articles found excited delirium was associated with more than 10% of deaths in police custody. Elijah McClain was injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora in 2019.

Elijah McClain (2)
Elijah McClain (credit: CBS)

Elijah Mcclain's police stop was caught on camera. Video shows him pleading for air.

(credit: Aurora)

His mother says officers could have handled it differently.

"They could've asked questions before they hopped out of the car. They could have treated him like a person instead of an animal," Sheneen McClain said.

McClain was walking home from a convenience store wearing a face mask in August of 2019. Someone called police to report a suspicious person.

The three officers who stopped him were joined by at least nine more, and McClain was put in a neck hold and forced to the ground.

According to their statements, and the district attorney, the police and medical workers said they thought the 140-pound McClain wasn't making sense and showed surprising strength -- which they took not as a struggle to survive, but as symptoms of excited delirium.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association don't recognize the condition. Dr. Paul Appelbaum oversees changes to a diagnostic manual used by psychiatry professionals.

"Excited delirium is a perplexing term," Appelbaum said. It doesn't correspond to any discreet reality out there in the world."

In a report by Appelbaum, he says the condition is based on bad science. Adams County District Attorney Dave Young was interviewed in the report.

RELATED: Termination Appeal Hearings For Aurora Police Officers Fired In Elijah McClain Photo Scandal Rescheduled Until 2021

He says McClain may have died from several possible causes, according to an autopsy, including excited delirium which contributed to his belief he could not win a homicide case against the officers who restrained McClain.

Elijah McClain (credit: CBS)

After being tackled to the ground, he was given ketamine, a sedative, by an Aurora Fire Department paramedic. He died a few days later. He was 23 years old.

RELATED: Colorado Governor Amends Executive Order To Clarify Scope Of Elijah McClain Death Investigation

Watch the '60 Minutes' investigation into excited delirium here.

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