Grand Jury Indicts Officers and Paramedics in the Death of Elijah McClain

family of Elijah McClain gathered at a press conference
image: Andy Cross/ Getty

A Colorado grand jury has indicted three police officers and two paramedics involved in the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain. McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died following an encounter with police, which ensued as he walked home from a local store. During the incident, McClain was placed in a chokehold and injected with a sedative, according to CBS News. Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the ruling on Wednesday. “We’re here today because Elijah McClain is not here and he should be,” Weiser said. “When he died, he was only 23 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him and his family and his friends must now go on and must live without him.”

In his official statement, Weisner says Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former police officer Jason Rosenblatt, and Aurora Fire and Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec have each been charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide. Two of the officers face additional assault and crime of violence counts, and the two paramedics also face assault counts, in addition to counts of recklessly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon – the sedative ketamine. 

Additionally, the paramedics are charged with assault counts related to “intentionally causing stupor, unconsciousness, or other physical or mental impairment or injury” by administering ketamine to McClain without his consent for a purpose other than lawful medical treatment.

Previously, Dave Young, Adams County District Attorney, declined to bring criminal charges, citing a lack of evidence proving that the officers caused McClain’s death or that their force was unjustified. But last June, McClain’s case attracted a groundswell of attention after the police killings of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor led to mass protests and demonstrations across the county.  As a result of protests and a viral online petition last year, Gov. Jared Polis announced he would reopen the case and Weiser launched an independent investigation into McClain’s death in January.

In a statement released to CBS Denver, the Aurora Police Association said “our officers did nothing wrong.”

“McClain died due to a combination of exertion due to his decision to violently resist arrest and a preexisting heart condition,” the statement reads. “He was alive and talking when the officers turned him over to EMS. There is no evidence that our officers caused his death.”

Speaking in an interview with CNN, the victim’s mother, Sheneen McClain, was overwhelmed with emotion when news broke of the indictments and expressed her gratitude for the work of the grand jury, Weiser, and his team,

“I started crying because it’s been two years,” she said. “It’s been a long journey, you know, and it’s overwhelming. I’m still processing it, you know, because this is one of those things that has never really been done and is being done right here because of my son, so it’s overwhelming.”

LaWayne Mosely, McClain’s father, cried tears of joy when he heard the news, according to his attorney. “Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” Mosely’s statement read.

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