Denver, CO – A Colorado grand jury indicted two Aurora police officers, one former officer, and two paramedics on a slew of charges in the 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after an eight-month-long investigation.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that all five defendants were facing a slew of charges that included one count each of manslaughter and criminally-negligent homicide, NBC News reported.
The defendants were identified in the indictment as Aurora Police Officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former Aurora Police Officer Jason Rosenblatt, and Aurora Fire Department Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.
The governor of Colorado charged the attorney general with re-opening the investigation into McClain’s death in June of 2020, just weeks after George Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
The incident had already been investigated and prosecutors had found not grounds to bring charges against any of the first responders involved.
But Colorado Governor Jared Polis directed Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser by executive order to investigate McClain’s death in custody and prosecute those involved if he determined it was warranted, the Associated Press reported.
“Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said in a statement.
The incident occurred on Aug. 24, 2019 when police responded to a call about a suspicious person wearing a mask and waving their arms on Billings Street, the Denver Post reported.
When police arrived on the scene, the suspect – later identified as McClain – refused police commands to stop so they could talk to him.
Police tried to detain McClain and he resisted arrest, and so they used a takedown move and pinned the 140-pound man to the ground.
“Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain told the officers in bodycam video, the Associated Press reported.
Officers used a “carotid control hold” on McClain, according to the Denver Post.
The suspect told police he couldn’t breathe and vomited several times, but he also continued to resist arrest.
Officials said one of the officers requested that paramedics who arrived on the scene dispense a sedative to the still-resisting suspect, KMGH reported.
Paramedics gave McClain a 500 milligram dose of ketamine to calm him down.
However, Aurora police said bodycam video proved it wasn’t the officers’ idea to sedate McClain, KMGH reported.
He suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and never regained consciousness, the Associated Press reported.
McClain died on Aug. 30, 2019, three days after he was taken off life support.
The Aurora Police Department investigated and the district attorney for the 17th Judicial District determined there was no criminal wrongdoing by the officers involved, the Denver Post reported.
“Based on the facts and evidence of this investigation, I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers involved in this incident were not justified in their actions based on what they knew at the time of the incident,” Dave Young, the district attorney for the 17th Judicial District in Adams and Broomfield Counties, said in a statement.
“Ultimately, while I may share the vast public opinion that Elijah McClain’s death could have been avoided, it is not my role to file criminal charges based on opinion, but, rather, on the evidence revealed from the investigation and applicable Colorado law,” Young said.
The police department’s investigation of the incident determined the officers “had a lawful reason to contact Mr. McClain” and that the use-of-force applied had been “within policy and consistent with training,” the Denver Post reported.
The carotid hold used on McClain has since been banned by Aurora police.
But after riots broke out across the country in the wake of 46-year-old George Floyd’s death in custody of the Minneapolis police, activists in Colorado turned McClain’s name into a rallying cry for police brutality in their own state, and the governor re-opened the case.
Officers Woodyard and Roedema remain employed by the Aurora Police Department, NBC News reported.
However, former Officer Rosenblatt was one of three officers who were fired a month after McClain died after he they posed for selfies at a memorial for the 23 year old.
Charging documents released on Sept. 1 showed Officer Roedema and former Officer Rosenblatt face one count each of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and a related one count each of a crime of violence, NBC News reported.
Paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec were each facing one count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, one count of second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon via the ketamine, and one count of second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment, according to the indictment.
Charging documents showed the paramedics were also charged with two counts of crimes of violence for each of the assault charges, NBC News reported.
The attorney general promised a separate investigation was ongoing into whether Aurora police or fire have a pattern of violating people’s civil rights.