Autopsy: Cause and manner of death of 23-year-old who struggled with Aurora police is undetermined

The cause and manner of death of a 23-year-old man, who collapsed and was hospitalized after a violent arrest by Aurora police officers, are “undetermined,” according to the Adams County Coroner’s Office.

Elijah McClain was declared “brain dead” on Aug. 27 at a local hospital. “Intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery contributed to death,” according to an autopsy report signed Thursday by Dr. Stephen J. Cina, a forensic pathology consultant.

McClain FamilyElijah McClain

Police responded at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 24 to a call about a “suspicious person” who was walking in the 1900 block of Billings Street near East Colfax Avenue. The caller said the person was wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.

McClain routinely wore masks when he was outside because he had anemia — a blood condition — and became cold easily, according to family. He was walking home from a convenience store when the incident happened.

Police said McClain refused to stop walking when they asked him to and he battled when they attempted to take him into custody.

“The decedent was violently struggling with officers who were attempting to restrain him. Most likely the decedent’s physical exertion contributed to death,” the autopsy report said. “It is unclear if the officers’ actions contributed as well.”

The night of the incident, after McClain was handcuffed, authorities injected him with ketamine in an attempt to sedate him. He suffered cardiac arrest during the ambulance ride to a nearby hospital.

“The blood ketamine concentration was at a theraputic level but and idiosyncratic drug reaction (unexpected reaction to a drug even at a therapeutic level) cannot be excluded” as a possible contributing factor to his death, the report said.

At the hospital, McClain “developed acute kidney injury…which was addressed, but he had a second cardiac arrest on August 25,” according to the report. McClain was an organ donor, he was taken off life support three days after his brain death.