On Wednesday (September 1), a Colorado grand jury announced three police officers and two paramedics would be charged on multiple counts in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after being violently detained by officers and injected with ketamine, a known sedative, by paramedics.
The 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 Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. The move is the first act of discipline or punishment any of the five individuals involved have faced since McClain’s death.
On August 24, 2019, McClain was walking to a convenience store to purchase tea when someone nearby called 911, reporting a suspicious person. Officers Woodyard, Rodema and Rosenblatt contacted McClain as he attempted to return home. When he refused to stop walking, unaware of why police were following him, the three men tackled him to the ground, handcuffed him and used a chokehold to block the flow of blood from his carotid artery to his brain.
The three officers ignored McClain’s wishes to leave him alone and paramedics injected the young man with 500 mg of ketamine before taking him to the hospital. He suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was declared brain dead. He died six days later on August 30, 2019, after being removed from life support.
All five individuals face charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
After a group text was shared of Auoroa officers mocking McClain’s death, Rosenblatt was fired by the department in July 2020 and McClain’s case picked up national attention in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Roedema and Rosenblatt face a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence in connection to the second-degree assault charge.
Cooper and Cichuniec, the paramedics involved in the case, also face second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury charges and 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. Additionally, they face two counts of crime of violence for each of their respective assault charges.
On Wednesday, McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain was thankful for the indictments but aware the fight was not over yet.
“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.”