A Colorado grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against the police officers and paramedics involved in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, who was filmed being placed in a chokehold and injected with ketamine before his death.
According to the Colorado Sun, three Aurora police officers and two Fire Rescue paramedics were charged in Adams County with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for McClain’s death. The officers charged are Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema, while the paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Lieutenant Peter Cichuniec.
The Denver Post reported Roedema and Rosenblatt are also charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and violence related to the second-degree assault charge. Cooper and Cichuniec are also charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, second-degree assault for recklessly causing bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon (ketamine), second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment for administering ketamine to McClain, and violence related to the assault charges.
McClain was declared brain dead days after arresting officers allegedly placed him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with 500mg of ketamine — a general anesthetic which is typically used before and during surgery or a medical procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The grand jury indictment comes months after the city’s independent probe determined the responding officers had no basis to detain, frisk, or use a chokehold on McClain, 23. In their report, the three-person panel called the stop “questionable,” and asserted that the officers never stated what crime McClain had committed or what crime they thought he was about to commit.
In August 2019, Aurora police officers responding to a suspicious person call detained McClain as he walked home from a corner store. During the 20-minute encounter, officers put McClain in a carotid hold and violently restrained him with an armbar and their knees, a federal lawsuit filed by the deceased man’s family alleges.
“Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain was heard saying in police’s bodycam footage.
A paramedic allegedly injected McClain with 500mg of ketamine after he was handcuffed. The panel’s 157-page report stated that the paramedic failed to adequately assess McClain before administering the sedative — and the dosage was based on the “grossly inaccurate” assumption that McClain was 50 pounds heavier.
McClain, who went into cardiac arrest during the encounter, died after being declared brain dead. McClain’s autopsy was inconclusive, but the federal lawsuit stated that “intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery contributed to [his] death.”
The city’s independent report also scrutinized the Aurora Police Department’s investigation of McClain’s death. The panel wrote that the department’s Major Crimes Unit, which conducted an internal probe, “stretched the record to exonerate” the three arresting officers — and failed to conduct an objective investigation.
“The officers’ statements on the scene and in subsequent recorded interviews suggest a violent and relentless struggle,” the report stated.
“The limited video, and the audio from the body-worn cameras, reveal Mr. McClain surrounded by officers, all larger than he, crying out in pain, apologizing, explaining himself, and pleading with the officers.”
Despite the city’s scathing report, which was released in February, District Attorney Dave Young said in November 2019 that the three Aurora police officers would not face criminal charges in connection with McClain’s death. Independent investigators claimed the internal report was biased and influenced the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and Aurora police’s force review board’s decision to clear the officers of wrongdoing.
However, in June 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor in McClain’s case. The unprecedented move resulted in Weiser’s office opening a statewide grand jury investigation into the fatal 2019 arrest, according to the Colorado Sun.
Last year, Rosenblatt was fired for allegedly responding “haha” to a photo message that showed his colleagues reenacting a chokehold used on McClain at his memorial site. The two other police officers remain on the force but are in non-public-facing roles.
This story is developing…
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[Featured image: Elijah McClain/GoFundMe]