Colorado officers, paramedics charged in 2019 death of Elijah McClain

People gather at a candlelight vigil to demand justice for Elijah McClain on the one year anniversary of his death at The Laugh Factory in August 2020 in West Hollywood, Calif. Rich Fury/Getty Images/TNS

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A grand jury has returned a 32-count indictment against three current and former Aurora police officers and two paramedics for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday.

All five face criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. They include officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodward and former officer Jason Rosenblatt. Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec have also been charged.

“It is our department’s solemn duty to prosecute this case. ... We are here today because Elijah is not here, and he should be,” Weiser said at a news conference.

Wednesday’s announcement marks the latest development in two years of social, legislative and legal responses to McClain’s death. Weiser opened the grand jury investigation in January.

Officers stopped McClain Aug. 24, 2019, as he walked home. They had responded to a call about a suspicious person in the Denver suburb, but the caller had said they did not believe the person was armed.

Investigators found the officers grabbed McClain by the neck in a “carotid” hold, and paramedics called to the scene injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine. McClain died a few days later in a hospital.

The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to issued charges in McClain’s death.

The Aurora Police Department has since banned chokeholds. Last year, police Chief Vanessa Wilson fired officers who took a photo mocking McClain’s death and sent it to one of the officers who stopped McClain, Jason Rosenblatt. Police said Rosenblatt was also fired for responding, “Ha ha.”

In July, Gov. Jared Polis signed a law banning police from ordering paramedics or other medical professionals to use ketamine. The law also prohibits medical workers from administering ketamine on anyone suspected of a crime absent a medical emergency.

In February, an independent investigation found police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop McClain.

A separate investigation into whether the Aurora Police Department has had pattern of violating its residents’ civil rights was underway by Weiser’s office.

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Tribune Wire

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