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Police officers, paramedics involved in the death of Elijah McClain charged with manslaughter and homicide

Elijah McClain was only 23 when police used carotid hold to restrain him and gave him a powerful sedative that caused a cardiac arrest. He died at the hospital a few days later.

Police officers, paramedics involved in the death of Elijah McClain charged with manslaughter and homicide
Image Source: GoFundMe/Elijah McClain

In 2019, a 23-year-old Black man named Elijah McClain was on his way home from the convenience store. Someone called the police on him claiming he “looked sketchy,” wearing a ski mask, and waving his arms. The police arrived at the spot and put him on the ground using a carotid hold. This restricts blood to the brain and can result in unconsciousness. Paramedics arrived at the spot and injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative. The Denver Channel had reported that McClain had thrown up and went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital. He died a few days later.



Nearly two years later, the three police officers and two paramedics involved in the death of McClain have been indicted by a Colorado grand jury. Aurora Police officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, former officer Jason Rosenblatt and Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were each charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide as part of a 32-count indictment, reported CNN. Roedema and Rosenblatt were each additionally indicted on one count of assault and one count of a crime of violence. Cooper and Cichuniec were each indicted on three counts of assault and six counts of crime of violence.



“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said in a statement after the indictments were announced. McClain was a massage therapist who is said to have loved animals and had taught himself to play the guitar and the violin. After his death, a photograph of him playing the violin for stray cats, to help soothe them had gone viral. His case was brought to light and justice for the young man was demanded following the death of George Floyd who was similarly killed by a police officer on duty and the whole thing was even captured on camera. 



An independent panel hired by Aurora's City Council found that the police officers who detained McClain had no apparent reason to suspect a crime was being committed, reported Reuters. A subsequent internal police investigation of the incident found that it was flawed. The Aurora Police Association continues to admit any wrongdoing and called the verdict a hysterical overreaction." In a statement, they stated, "Sadly, Mr. McClain died due to a combination of exertion due to his decision to violently resist arrest and a pre-existing heart condition. There is no evidence that APD officers caused his death."



At the time of the incident Mari Newman, the family's attorney had stated, "Whatever the report says, it's clear that if the police had not attacked Elijah McClain, he would be alive today." She had stated that the police should have stopped him and questioned him first instead of using brute force to clear any suspicion. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said, "We're here today because Elijah McClain is not here and he should be. 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."



Weiser added, "Make no mistake, we recognize that this case will be difficult to prosecute. These types of cases always are. Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and friends, and for our state. In so doing, we advance the rule of law and our commitment that everyone is accountable and equal under the law." He said this in reference to the rarity of police officers being held accountable for the in-custody deaths of Black people, and who almost never face criminal charges and convictions in such cases.


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