On September 1, 2021, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) announced that a grand jury had indicted three Aurora cops and two paramedics in the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man.
Weiser was appointed to review the case by Gov. Jared Polis (D) after former District Attorney Dave Young declined to file any charges in the death, despite calling it “preventable.”
Young, who was term-limited, left office in January 2021.
McClain, a massage therapist, was walking home wearing headphones and a ski mask—combating asthma problems he suffered—when he failed to hear officers calling to him because they were looking for another suspect in a mask. They tackled McClain and put him in a carotid chokehold until paramedics arrived and injected him with ketamine to sedate him. McClain then went into cardiac arrest and died.
Those charged in his death are:
- Aurora Police Department (APD) officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard;
- Former APD Officer Jason Rosenblatt; and
- Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) paramedics Lt. Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper.
In addition to twice using the chokehold, the indictment accuses the officers of employing a “bar hammer lock,” during which one admitted “cranking” McClain’s shoulder until he heard it pop three times. The officers are also accused of ignoring McClain’s vital signs— even as they held him on the ground, and he complained, "I can't breathe.”
They also didn't help him from his face mask after he vomited in it, allegedly because they didn't notice.
The two paramedics are also accused of failing to tend to McClain, instead of standing by and watching with Officer Roedema, who said, “We’ll just leave him there until the ambulance gets here and we’ll just put him down on the gurney.”
McClain’s death inspired the state legislature to enact a new police accountability measure in June 2020. A month after that, though, APD Chief Vanessa Wilson fired three other officers with the department who photographed themselves staging a macabre parody of McClain’s killing.
Each of the five men charged faces a count of manslaughter and another of criminally negligent homicide, along with other charges.
Sources: Washington Post, New York Post
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