What are the charges against Elijah McClain death suspects? Colorado officers and paramedics pleads not guilty in court

5 officials (right) were charged with manslaughter after Elijah McClain (left) died in a violent arrest in 2019, (Image via Deb🐝 G #StandWithUkraine!🇺🇦/Twitter)
5 officials (right) were charged with manslaughter after Elijah McClain (left) died in a violent arrest in 2019, (Image via Deb🐝 G #StandWithUkraine!🇺🇦/Twitter)

A 23-year-old African-American man named Elijah McClain died in 2019 after he was retrained and a strong sedative was injected by a group of paramedics and cops. He died in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado. After an autopsy that was performed last year, McClain’s death was considered to be “undetermined” and was not ruled as a homicide.

The suspects have been identified as two paramedics and three cops from the Aurora Police Department. In 2022, CPR News reported that Elijah McClain was injected with ketamine. A group of cops and paramedics were facing several charges, including manslaughter, at the time. However, they pleaded not guilty.

The three cops have been identified as Randy Roedema, former officer Jason Rosenblatt, and Nathan Woodyard. At the same time, officials identified the paramedics as Jeremy Cooper and Lt. peter Cichuniec.

After the Colorado suspects pleaded not guilty in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, the judge stated that three separate trials will be held for them

In 2019, Elijah McClain lost his life during a violent arrest. The unarmed African-American man was walking home when he was approached by the three cops. They were responding to a 911 call by someone who claimed that McClain looked “sketchy” and was wearing a ski mask.

This was when the officers apprehended the 23-year-old. He reportedly apologized during the arrest and said:

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that, I can’t breathe correctly.”

As they struggled to arrest him, they forced him to the ground and reportedly used a carotid hold, which is supposed to restrict blood flow to the brain and lead to unconsciousness.

Paramedics arrived around 15 minutes after the incident and administered McClain with ketamine. It was alleged that the amount of ketamine injected was higher than the prescribed doses.

McClain died of cardiac arrest a few days after the incident. An autopsy was done by the Adams County Coroner, where it was discovered that his death was “undetermined.” Authorities further mentioned that the death could have been a result of natural causes or just an accident.

According to the autopsy report, McClain had chronic asthma. It further stated that since he was struggling against the cops who restrained him, the large amount of exertion could have contributed to his unfortunate demise:

“Mr. Elijah McClain was violently struggling with officers who were attempting to restrain him. Most likely the decedent’s physical exertion most likely contributed to the death. It is unclear if the officers’ actions contributed as well.”

However, Mari Newman, the attorney representing McClain’s family, said that the report is ambiguous in its mention of whether or not McClain was restrained by the cops:

“Whatever the report says, it’s unclear that if the police had not attacked Elijah McClain, he would be alive today.”

In 2021, the five Colorado officials, namely Randy Roedema, former officer Jason Rosenblatt, Nathan Woodyard, Jeremy Cooper, and Lt. peter Cichuniec, were indicted for manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among other charges by a state grand jury.

However, the suspects have pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The judge stated that three separate trials will be held. Trials for Roedema and Rosenblatt are scheduled to begin in July, while for the paramedics, it will begin in August. Nathan Woodward’s trial is set to begin in September.

The city of Aurors settled a lawsuit with Elijah McClain’s parents for $15 million. Before his death, he worked as a massage therapist. According to McClain's family, he was wearing a ski mask to prevent a cold since he had anemia. Family and friends have described Elijah as a “kind” and “gentle” person.

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Edited by Priya Majumdar