The Adams County Coroner’s Office in Colorado on Friday released Elijah McClain’s amended autopsy report after several news organizations sued for its release.
The cause of death, which was previously listed as “undetermined,” was listed in the amended report as “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.” The manner of death remained listed as “undetermined” as it was in the initial report.
“The investigation suggests that [McClain] received an intramuscular dose of ketamine that was higher than recommended for his weight,” the report from Adams County Monica chief coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan read. “Further, my review of all the body camera footage shows that Mr. McClain was extremely sedated within minutes of receiving a shot of ketamine. When he was placed on a stretcher, I believe he was displaying agonal breathing and respiratory arrest was imminent.”
She went on, “Simply put, this dosage of ketamine was too much for this individual and it resulted in an overdose, even though his blood ketamine level was consistent with a ‘therapeutic’ blood concentration. I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine.”
McClain, a Black 23-year-old massage therapist, died following an encounter with police in August 2019 while he was walking home from a convenience store.
In the report, Broncucia-Jordan acknowledged that another forensic pathologist may have considered the manner of death in this case to be a “homicide or accident.”
A passerby had called 911 to report McClain was acting “sketchy” since he was wearing a ski mask on a warm night. The lawyer for the McClain family attributed this to the fact that McClain was anemic, which made him feel cold more easily.
Aurora police officers responded to the scene and confronted McClain. An officer can be heard saying in body camera footage that they put him into a carotid chokehold, which restricts the carotid artery and cuts off blood to the brain, according to the Department of Justice. McClain can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” in police body camera footage.
Paramedics arrived, giving McClain an “excessive” dose of ketamine, according to McCain’s lawyer, and McClain suffered from cardiac arrest shortly after in an ambulance, according to officials. McClain was pronounced dead three days later.
Former Aurora Police Officers Jason Rosenblatt, Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema as well as paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper were charged with 32 criminal counts, including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault charges.
Their arraignment is set for November.
The report was amended based on confidential grand jury information, according to Broncucia-Jordan.
CPR News filed a lawsuit against the Adams County Coroner’s Office on Sept. 1, arguing for the autopsy report to be released. Several other local news organizations joined the effort after open records requests to obtain the report were denied.