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Paramedics Said Elijah McClain Had Disputed ‘Excited Delirium'

Two paramedics on trial over the 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Colorado told investigators in videotaped interviews previously not public that the 23-year-old Black man had " excited delirium,” a disputed condition some say is unscientific and rooted in racism, the Associated Press reports. McClain died after being stopped by police while walking home from a convenience store, then forcibly restrained and injected with ketamine by the paramedics. Initially, no one was charged because the coroner’s office could not determine how he died. Social justice protests over the 2020 murder of George Floyd drew renewed attention to McClain’s case, which led to the 2021 indictment of the paramedics and three officers. Starting in 2018, paramedics in Aurora were trained to use ketamine, a sedative, to treat excited delirium after approval from state regulators. Under their training, if they determined that an agitated person they were treating had the condition, which has been described as involving bizarre behavior and a high pain tolerance, they were told to administer ketamine.

However, critics say such diagnoses have been misused to justify excessive force against suspects. The diagnosis has been rejected by some doctor’s groups since McClain’s fatal stop and last week, Colorado officials decided that police officers will no longer be trained to look for the condition starting in 2024. Aurora Fire Department paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec said that McClain was actively resisting officers. They said McClain showed unusual strength, a supposed symptom of excited delirium. The two paramedics have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and several counts each of assault. The trial is scheduled to continue through most of December, exploring uncharted legal territory because it is rare for medical first responders to face criminal charges. The trial was delayed until Friday after one juror tested positive for COVID-19 using an expired at-home test.


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