After months of protest, officers and paramedics indicted for Elijah McClain’s death

Five people – three police officers and two paramedics – were indicted by a grand jury in the US state of Colorado, two years after Elijah McClain’s death. They face charges on a total of 32 counts, including manslaughter and negligent homicide

September 02, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo: Twitter

On Wednesday, September 1, three police officers and two paramedics involved in the violent confrontation and eventual death of Elijah McClain in 2019 were indicted by a grand jury in the state of Colorado. The indictment came in the aftermath of nearly two years of struggle and a year after the nationwide uprising against police killings.

The five individuals face charges on a total of 32 counts, including manslaughter and negligent homicide. The three officers are Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, and Jason Rosenblatt, while the two paramedics charged are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

“I hope they get life in prison,” said Elijah’s mother, Sheneen McClain, speaking to CPR. “To be honest with you, Elijah lost his life. You know.. he didn’t grow up being a problem to anybody. He was living his life in the most peaceful way he possibly could.”

The grand jury concluded that the officers used excessive force against McClain, even though there was no evidence of him doing anything illegal.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was apprehended in Aurora, Colorado, on August 24, 2019, over a call reporting allegedly suspicious behavior. Even though the caller did not mention any criminal activity or behavior by McClain, the police tried to restrain him violently.

McClain was pinned to the ground and put in the now-banned carotid hold — commonly called the “chokehold.” From the audio feed on the body cams on the officers, he could be heard pleading to the officers, telling them “I can’t breathe” repeatedly, and reportedly vomiting several times.

The two paramedics who arrived at the scene later injected him with around 500 mg of ketamine while the officers were restraining him. One of the paramedics who administered the ketamine dose found no pulse on McClain. He was pronounced brain dead on August 27 and died on August 30.

The death caused a major movement in Aurora, with McClain’s family and activists in Colorado pushing for a full-fledged investigation to bring the officers and the paramedics responsible to justice. Along with other similar cases of fatal police violence, the case received worldwide attention during the George Floyd protests that swept the United States in 2020.

Three activists from the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) in Denver were arrested and charged for organizing a massive protest of over 5,000 people during the countrywide struggle. Despite police repression, the movement to secure justice for McClain continued and felony charges against the activists were subsequently dropped.

The Aurora city council eventually investigated McClain’s death in February this year. The investigation report strongly criticized the police’s version and the response by the police and paramedics. The death and protests also prompted several investigations into the police department’s conduct and a civil rights investigation by the attorney general.

In a report, Liberation News hailed the indictment. “This victory would not have been won without the mass, sustained, militant movement of the Aurora community,” the report added. “Today cars are honking and people are celebrating in Denver and Aurora. The fight will continue to ensure that justice is served and the cops and paramedics are convicted.”