A black man who died after a police standoff in suburban Denver in 2019 died because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being violently restrained, according to an amended autopsy report made public Friday.
Despite the finding, the manner of his death, a 23-year-old massage therapist, is still listed as unaccounted for, the report shows. McClain was held by the throat and injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora for “being suspicious.” He was unarmed.
The initial autopsy report done shortly after his death in August 2019 did not conclude on how he died or what his type of death was, such as whether it was natural, accidental or a homicide. This was a major reason why prosecutors initially decided not to press charges.
However, a state grand jury last year indicted McClain for manslaughter and manslaughter in his death after the case gained renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. It became a rallying cry during the national reckoning on racism and the police brutality.
The indictment cited information from an unnamed medical examiner who concluded that McClain died of complications from being injected with ketamine, a sedative, while being violently subdued and restrained by law enforcement and emergency services.
The five defendants have yet to enter pleas and their attorneys have not publicly commented on the charges.
The updated autopsy was released Friday following a court ruling in a lawsuit brought by Colorado Public Radio, along with other media organizations, including the Associated Press. Colorado Public Radio sued the medical examiner to release the report after learning it had been leaked, arguing it should be available under the state’s public records law.
Coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan said she could not release it because it contained confidential grand jury information and that releasing it would violate a non-disclosure oath she took when she obtained it last year.
But Adams County District Judge Kyle Seedorf ordered the medical examiner to release the updated report by Friday, and a Denver judge who oversees state grand jury proceedings, Christopher Bowman, ruled Thursday that his information grand jury were not redacted from the updated report.
McClain’s death has reignited scrutiny over the use of ketamine and led Colorado’s health department to issue a new rule limiting when emergency workers can use it.
Last year, the city of Aurora agreed tobrought by McClain’s parents. The lawsuit alleged that the force the officers used against McClain and his struggle to survive dramatically increased the amount of lactic acid in his system, leading to his death, possibly along with the large dose of ketamine he was given.
An outside investigation commissioned by the city faulted the police investigation into McClain’s arrest for not pressing for answers about how officers treated him. It found there was no evidence to justify the officers’ decision to stop McClain, who had been cited as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask while walking down the street waving his arms. He was not charged with breaking any laws.