Aurora Police officers and Paramedics indicted In Death of Elijah McClain

Brought to Justice after two years

Two years ago, on August 24, 2019, Aurora police responded to a 911 call reporting a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask. It was 23-year-old Elijah McClain who was walking home from the store when he got stopped by Aurora police officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, and Jason Rosenblatt. Elijah McClain was not armed or dangerous but when he “resisted arrest” the officers tackled McClain to the ground and proceeded to call first responders. McClain died after being held in not one, but two carotid holds and injected with ketamine. McClain’s case sparked an interest in protesters after the death of George Floyd in 2020, one year later after Elijah McClain died. Floyd’s death was almost the breaking point for citizens and it led people to think about the other cases like George Floyd’s that weren’t given any justice and were swept away, and that was the case of Elijah McClain. Governor Jared Polis had announced a re-examination of McClain’s case and had appointed Colorado Attorney Phil Weiser as the special prosecutor. Weiser later opened a grand jury investigation into the case in January 2021. “Make no mistake, we recognize that his case will be difficult to prosecute,” Weiser says. “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”.

An independent investigation was begun by the City of Aurora and what was found was crucial and pivotal errors in the Aurora Police Department’s encounter with McClain. The 157-page report was released on Monday, February 22, 2021, and what the authorities noted with this report is that it does “not attempt to assign legal responsibility for Mr. McClain’s death or determine his cause of death”. Report investigators, according to Denverite, said that the crime/homicide unit’s handling of the investigation of McClain’s death raised major concerns. The investigation was led by executive director of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Jonathan Smith. Emergency-medicine doctor located in Southern Alabama, Dr. Melissa Costello, and former officer with the Tucson Police Department, Roberto Villasenor. A year prior to this investigation, Allison Hiltz, a former Aurora City Council member had recommended the independent investigation. Hiltz says, “I hope the majority of the council sees this report and recognizes that we have a very serious problem,” She says. “We can’t just read this and do nothing”

Here is a list of the concerns about the report:

  • It was found that the crime investigators failed to answer basic and critical questions about the use of force

  • Aurora Fire personnel did not examine or ask McClain any questions before they injected him with ketamine. The report notes that “Aurora Fire appears to have decided to sedate Mr.McClain without conducting anything more than brief visual observation”.

  • The paramedic Jeremy Cooper had recommended using ketamine on Mr.McClain, with “excited delirium” and Lt. Peter Cichuniec had also insisted on using 500 milligrams. Based on what the report said, it was an “inaccurate estimation that Mr. McClain weighed about 190 pounds” Investigators could not find any “conclusive evidence that the ketamine administered to Mr.McClain was a direct cause of, or even contributed to, his death”

  • The report also notes that neither Aurora Fire nor Police had a “clear transition of care or command”. There was no plan or any form of structure taken place while dealing with McClain. The Decisions that were being made were differing and just not professional, to say the least.

On September 1st, 2021 after two years, the McClain family had their justice. The three police officers, Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, and Jason Rosenblatt were indicted as well as the two medics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec. “We’re here today because Elijah McClain is not here and he should be,” Weiser says. “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”. The grand jury filed 32 counts of criminal charges against the three police officers and the two paramedics. All five have each been charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide. Two of the officers face additional counts of assault and crime of violence. The two other paramedics face assault counts related to “intentionally causing stupor, unconsciousness, or other physical or

mental impairment or injury” by injecting McClain with the ketamine without his consent for a purpose other than unlawful medical treatment. They face additional counts of recklessly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon or in other words, the sedative ketamine. Sheneen McClain, the mother of Elija McClain talked to CNN over a phone call interview and said “I started crying because it’s been two years” She said. “It has been a long journey, you know, and it’s overwhelming. I’m still processing it, you know, because this is one of those things that has never really been done and is being done right here because of my son, so it’s overwhelming”. McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosely, wept tears of joy at the news, according to Mari Newman, Moseley’s attorney. “Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable”. Mosely Says.

Story By: Hannah Trollope '22