Attorneys for Aurora, Colo., police officers and medics involved in the death of Elijah McClain filed several motions with the U.S. District Court of Colorado last week to dismiss a lawsuit brought by McClain’s family in August. The lawsuit alleges that discriminatory practices are what caused officers to put a Black man in a chokehold and paramedics to “recklessly” administer medication that contributed to the 23-year-old’s death.
The Associated Press reports that one of the motions filed late last Monday by attorneys for the three officers who confronted McClain last year, claimed the plaintiffs in the lawsuit failed to prove that officers handled McClain any differently than they would have if he were white.
It often seems like no matter how many studies show that officers are far more likely to use force against Black suspects—and, in this case, a Black man who reportedly was just walking home from the store—than they are against our white counterparts, authorities will still pivot to saying, “race had nothing to do with it.”
“The death of Elijah McClain is a tragedy,” the motion said, Channel 9 News reports. “However, this tragedy was not caused by deliberate and discriminatory acts or omissions of the APD (Aurora Police Department) Defendants.”
The department said the same thing in a statement last month adding that “APD Defendants deny that they used excessive force on Mr. McClain in violation of the Fourth Amendment, that they denied him equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment and that they caused his death by battery or neglect.”
According to the Denver Post, the city of Aurora also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In that motion, attorneys argued against the suit’s claim that the city’s policies led to officers with the police department—as well as Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics—violating McClain’s constitutional rights and causing his death. The city’s motion argues that the suit “makes only conclusory allegations regarding the alleged failure to train,” but doesn’t specify issues with “overall training.” Instead, the defendants claim the suit alleges facts that merely suggest “shortcomings in individual officers’ training and supervision.”
According to AP, Mari Newman, an attorney representing the McClain family, released a statement calling the motions “desperate” and saying she expects that the court will be on her clients’ side.
“We anticipate that the court will see these motions for what they are: a desperate attempt to avoid accountability for murdering an innocent young Black man, and to prevent Elijah’s family and community from achieving justice,” she said.