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Excerpt: "Three Aurora police officers and two paramedics will face criminal charges, including manslaughter, in connection with the 2019 death of Elijah McClain."

A photograph of Elijah McClain is part of the 'Say Their Names' memorial on Boston Common, Nov. 16, 2020. (photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Getty)
A photograph of Elijah McClain is part of the 'Say Their Names' memorial on Boston Common, Nov. 16, 2020. (photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Getty)

Colorado Grand Jury Indicts Officers and Paramedics in 2019 Death of Elijah McClain

By Noelle Phillips and Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post

01 September 21


hree Aurora police officers and two paramedics will face criminal charges, including manslaughter, in connection with the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.A state grand jury indicted Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former officer Jason Rosenblatt and paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec on 32 counts, according to an indictment made public Wednesday by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

The indictment comes just over two years after McClain, 23, died after being violently detained by the officers and injected with the sedative ketamine by paramedics.

All five face charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Officers Roedema and Rosenblatt face a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence related to the second-degree assault charge.

Paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec also face a second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, one count of second-degree assault for recklessly causing bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon (ketamine) and one count of second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment for administering ketamine to McClain.

The two paramedics also face two counts of crime of violence for each of the assault charges.

The charges brought by the grand jury mark the first time the officers and paramedics involved in McClain’s death have faced any punishment for their actions that night.

McClain’s mother Sheneen has been demanding prosecutors file criminal charges against those involved since his death. Her demands were echoed by thousands across the country in the summer of 2020 after people protesting the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer took up McClain’s cause and launched him into the national conversation.

On Wednesday morning, Sheneen McClain said she was overwhelmed by the indictments.

“It’s been a two-year battle just to get to this point,” she said. “It’s huge to know they’re indicted. But I know it’s not over. We still have to go to trial.”

The public pressure caused Gov. Jared Polis in June 2020 to designate Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate the death, which led to Weiser calling in January for a state grand jury to investigate McClain’s death and weigh any potential criminal charges.

At a Wednesday morning news conference, Weiser said he had a choice between reviewing the records of former Adams County District Attorney Dave Young, who had declined to prosecute, or to call a grand jury that would be authorized to gather new facts about what happened. He chose to call the grand jury. That body finished its work on Thursday, Weiser said.

McClain was walking to a convenience store to purchase tea the night of Aug. 24, 2019, when someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. The three Aurora police officers contacted McClain as he returned home.

When McClain refused to stop walking, the officers tackled him to the ground, handcuffed him and used a carotid choke hold to block the flow of blood to his brain. Officers ignored McClain’s pleas to leave him alone. Paramedics injected him with 500 mg of ketamine, a powerful sedative, before taking him to the hospital.

McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, where he was later declared brain dead. He died Aug. 30, 2019, after being removed from life support.

Adams County’s then-District Attorney Dave Young cleared the police officers of any criminal wrongdoing and Nick Metz, Aurora’s police chief at the time, determined the officers had not violated any of the department’s policies.

Roedema and Woodyard on Wednesday remained employed by the Aurora Police Department. Rosenblatt was fired in July 2020 after it was discovered he had responded “ha ha” in a text to a photo of colleagues smiling and reenacting a chokehold at the spot where McClain was detained.

Weiser also launched a probe into the Aurora Police Department’s practices and policies. That investigation is ongoing.

A consulting firm hired by city leaders to examine McClain’s death found Aurora police made substantial errors at nearly every stage of their interaction with McClain and while investigating themselves after his death.

McClain’s parents also filed a federal lawsuit against Aurora and the police officers and paramedics involved in their son’s death. Mohamedbhai, said all sides continue to work on a resolution, and court filings indicate a settlement is in the works.

All along, Sheneen McClain has said she wants nothing more than for the people who are responsible for her son’s death to be punished by spending time in prison. She even wears T-shirts with that demand printed on them.

“Bullies with badges and their accomplices murdered my son!!!! Protecting killers is a crime” is written on a shirt that she told The Denver Post is one of her favorites.

On Wednesday, she remembered her son’s gentle spirit and the little details that only a mother can recall — that his favorite color was blue and that, as a child, he only would accept blue lollipops.

“I miss him,” she said. “I remember him for who he was and how he treated other people. I appreciate him letting me be his mother.”

After the indictments were announced, LaWayne Mosely, Elijah McClain’s father, said, “Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” according to a statement from his attorney, Mari Newman. your social media marketing partner
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