McClain was put in a neck hold and injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora for “being suspicious.” He was unarmed.
The original autopsy report that was written soon after his death in August 2019 did not reach a conclusion about how he died or what type of death is was, such as if it was natural, accidental or a homicide. That was a major reason why prosecutors initially decided not to pursue charges.
But a state grand jury last year indicted three officers and two paramedics on manslaughter and reckless homicide charges in McClain’s death after the case drew renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. It became a rallying cry during the national reckoning over racism and police brutality.
The five accused have not yet entered pleas and their lawyers have not commented publicly on the charges.
In the updated report, completed in July 2021, Dr. Stephen Cina, a pathologist, concluded that the ketamine dosage given to McClain, which was higher than recommended for someone his size, “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.”
He said he could not rule out that changes in McClain’s blood chemistry, like an increase in lactic acid, due to his exertion while being restrained by police contributed to his death but concluded there was no evidence that injuries inflicted by police caused his death.
“I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” said Cina, who noted that body camera footage shows McClain becoming “extremely sedated” within a few minutes of being given the drug.
Cina acknowledged that other reasonable pathologists with different experience and training may have labeled such a death, while in police custody, as a homicide or accident, but that he believes the appropriate classification is undetermined.