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The Elijah McClain Case

Independent Review of Elijah McClain Case

Prompted by the members of the city's 2020 Public Safety, Courts & Civil Service Policy Committee—Council Members Allison Hiltz, Curtis Gardner and Angela Lawson—the City Manager worked with members of the Aurora City Council and Mayor Mike Coffman to initiate a new independent, external investigation of the actions of our police, firefighters and paramedics in the Elijah McClain case.

The Aurora City Council unanimously approved a resolution July 20, 2020, to open this independent investigation. The city completed a contract with the lead consultant, Jonathan Smith, who is executive director of the Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Prior to his government services, Smith was the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Justice Center in Baltimore and the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services Project.

Additional use of force and medical experts were identified to round out the review panel.

Per the council resolution, the investigation was to include the creation of a timeline; a review of all facts from the start to the end of APD’s and AFR’s contact; and a review of relevant policies, procedures and practices, including, without limitation, those related to calls for service, police contact with individuals, use of force, calls for medical assistance, ketamine use, and administrative incident reviews. 

The independent investigative team provided its report to the city of Aurora on Feb. 22, 2021. It was immediately made available to the public, and the investigative team presented its findings to the Aurora City Council.

Together we all want to achieve meaningful improvements, eliminate racial inequity and make lives better in our community. This review–and ultimately its findings—is a critical step toward these goals.

Background on the Elijah McClain Case

Visit this link to view the complete press packet from the Aurora Police Department, including Aurora Fire Rescue Ketamine Protocol and Combative Patient Protocol, the Adams County Coroner's Report and the 17th Judicial Investigation Report.

Visit this link to view additional information from Aurora Fire Rescue on the case.

City Council Unanimously Approves a Moratorium on the Use of Ketamine

On Sept. 14, the City Council voted unanimously on a proposal sponsored by Council Member Curtis Gardner to enact a moratorium on the use of ketamine by Aurora Fire Rescue and the ambulance transport provider Falck Rocky Mountain. The moratorium will continue at a minimum until 30 days after the city receives the results of an independent investigation into the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Aurora Fire Rescue has removed ketamine from service units and paramedics will continue to contact medical control for guidance if they encounter a situation that is unique or challenging while treating a patient. The department follows the Denver Metro Prehospital Protocols that are written and evaluated by physicians with emergency medical expertise. The protocols can be found on the AFR department website at AuroraGov.org/Fire

Timeline of Events in the Elijah McClain Case

Aug. 24, 2019
– Aurora police stop Elijah McClain near Billings Street and East Colfax Avenue following a resident’s 911 call reporting a suspicious person (view body-cam footage and hear the 911 call)

Aug. 27, 2019 – Elijah McClain dies at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora

Aug. 28, 2019 – Aurora Fire Rescue announces the completion of a preliminary review, in conjunction with the EMS Medical Director, of the treatment provided to Elijah McClain, finding that the actions of responders were consistent and aligned with established protocols set by medical doctors outside of the city

Oct. 21, 2019 – Factual findings of the investigation (including police reports, interviews with officers and witnesses, body worn camera videos, 911 audio and other relevant materials) are presented by Aurora police to 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office

Nov. 7, 2019 – Adams/Broomfield Coroner’s Office releases autopsy report (starting on page 23 of the linked file) that rules the cause and manner of Elijah McClain’s death as “undetermined” with contributing factors of “intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery”

Nov. 22, 2019 – 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office releases declination letter (starting on page 5 of the linked file), saying no state criminal charges will be filed against those involved in the case

Nov. 22, 2019 – As soon as the DA’s ruling is received, Aurora Police Department releases body-worn camera footage from the Aug. 24 incident and conducts a press conference

Dec. 2, 2019 – Aurora swears in a new mayor (Mike Coffman) and three new council members (Juan Marcano, Alison Coombs and Curtis Gardner)

Dec. 10, 2020 – Aurora chapter of NAACP, in coordination with members of the Aurora City Council, hosts a community meeting to hear community voices, experiences and concerns and help inform an intentional process engaging with and creating change within the social justice practices within the city of Aurora

Jan. 1, 2020 – Vanessa Wilson becomes Interim Chief of Police following the retirement of Nick Metz

Feb. 6, 2020 – Aurora Police Department announces findings of its Force Review Board, which began its work following the DA’s ruling and concluded that officers had a lawful reason to make the contact with Elijah McClain and that the force applied was within existing policy and consistent with training

Feb. 6, 2020 – City Manager Jim Twombly announces his intent to hire an external national expert to review all information pertinent to the response, interviews, and review of current departmental policies, procedures and training relevant to the case

Feb. 6, 2020 – City Manager Jim Twombly announces an official audit of Aurora Police Department body worn cameras to take a critical look at our policies, how well APD complies with policies, laws and best practices related to the use of body worn cameras, as well as the equipment itself (the audit is ongoing)

Feb. 10, 2020 – Led by Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Johnston, Aurora City Council unanimously approves a resolution to establish a Community Police Task Force to evaluate, discuss and develop recommendations to improve effective and transparent communication between the Aurora Police Department and the community, including a potential resident-involved/resident-based review process of critical police incidents, operations, practices and procedures

Feb. 11, 2020 – Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson holds a community meeting to discuss the department’s training, use of force policies, body worn cameras, hiring and discipline, and crime-reduction efforts

Feb. 12, 2020 – City signs contract with attorney Eric Daigle to conduct the external review of the Elijah McClain case

March 10, 2020 – Aurora Fire Rescue and Falck Rocky Mountain hold a community meeting to discuss the EMS response model, medical protocols, department training initiatives and community outreach

June 9, 2020 – Aurora Police Department and city management announce changes to police directives, including a ban on the carotid control hold, a duty to intervene, officer relief during physical altercations, a change to suspicious-person calls that allows for officer determination of whether to conduct a stop, and clarification on requiring a warning before shots are fired

June 10, 2020 – Following concerns expressed by members of the Aurora City Council Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Policy Committee (Council Members Allison Hiltz, Curtis Gardner and Angela Lawson) that the independent investigator hired by the city to review the Elijah McClain case could not be perceived as truly independent because of his background in law enforcement, City Manager Jim Twombly cancels the contract and commits to working with the mayor and City Council on a new independent, external investigation into the case

June 15, 2020 – At a special meeting called by Mayor Mike Coffman, the Aurora City Council approves 13 members of the Community Police Task Force, including representatives from the NAACP, community of faith, criminal justice reform organizations, educators and the Aurora Key Community Response Team; an additional member is selected at the June 22 council meeting

June 24, 2020 – The mayor and members of the Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Policy Committee announce July 6 council discussion on scope of independent investigation

June 25, 2020 – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appoints state Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate the death of Elijah McClain

June 30, 2020 – Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Denver Division of the FBI announce they have been reviewing the Elijah McClain case for potential federal civil rights violations since 2019

July 3, 2020 – Interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson announces the termination of three officers in relation to inappropriate photos taken at the Elijah McClain memorial site, and the resignation of another officer involved in the photo incident

July 6, 2020 – Aurora City Council discusses at their study session the scope of the external, independent investigation in the Elijah McClain case

July 16, 2020 - Aurora City Council's Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Policy Committee moves forward a draft resolution on the independent investigation to be considered by the full City Council at its July 20 meeting

July 20, 2020 - Aurora City Council approves resolution to move forward with independent investigation and complete contract with lead consultant, Jonathan Smith

Aug. 11, 2020 - Family of Elijah McClain files a federal lawsuit against the city of Aurora and several employees

Aug. 11, 2020 - The city announces a comprehensive review of the Aurora Police Department by 21CP Solutions, a global firm of experts in the areas of civil rights and public safety

Feb. 22, 2021 - Independent investigative team provides the city with its report (a copy of the executive summary is available in Spanish)

Feb. 22, 2021 - Independent investigative team presents on its findings to the Aurora City Council

Feb. 23, 2021 - Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly, Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson and Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Fernando Gray hold a press conference to discuss the report, and Twombly announces his intent for an independent monitor

March 2, 2021 - Aurora City Council is scheduled to hold a special study session to ask questions of the investigative team

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