The City Council in Aurora, Colorado, voted unanimously Monday to temporarily ban first responders from using ketamine to subdue suspects during arrests, CBS Denver reported. The decision comes as the city has faced increasing scrutiny over the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after he was given the drug in police custody.
The encounter began when police confronted McClain on the street on August 24, 2019. An officer said he saw McClain reaching for one of their guns, causing another officer to put him in a chokehold. McClain fell unconscious but was sedated with ketamine when he woke up because he allegedly became aggressive, according to a report from district attorney Dave Young.
Police reports cited by “CBS This Morning” state that paramedics gave him 500 milligrams of ketamine because they estimated his weight at 220 pounds. He weighed approximately 140.
McClain went into cardiac arrest while being transported to the hospital and died days later.
The decision to temporarily ban ketamine use comes after the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists urged the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to suspend its ketamine waiver program until the department has completed its review of using the drug for sedation and treating excited delirium. CBS Denver reports that the organization said it opposes using ketamine for incapacitation in a law enforcement setting.
“Our concern stems from the reported large number of uses of ketamine for this purpose in the past 2 1/2 years (more than 902 uses), reported doses that are equal or greater to that used to produce general anesthesia, and the high reported complication rate (24% in 2019 including at least one death),” the group said.
The city is also conducting a review of McClain’s death, which will include an investigation into the use of ketamine. Governor Jared Polis has also appointed a special prosecutor to review the case, and the state’s attorney general is investigating the Aurora Police Department.
Mayor Mike Coffman tweeted his support of the ban, writing, “I supported the suspension of the use of Ketamine by our paramedics until the two ongoing medical investigations have been completed and only if they conclude that it’s both safe and effective.” The ban is set to expire 30 days after a consultant gives the city a report on McClain’s death, according to CBS Denver.
None of the officers have been charged in McClain’s death. However, one officer involved in the arrest and two others who weren’t involved werein July over a photo that reenacted the chokehold used on McClain. Another officer in connection with the photos.