Three police officers and two paramedics were indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday (Sept. 1) in Elijah McClain's death. The news arrives after an eight-month grand jury investigation into the Black 23-year-old’s in-custody death, which occurred in Aurora, Colorado in 2019.
According to State Attorney General Phil Weiser, who announced the grand jury’s 32-count indictment, all five of the defendants face one count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among other charges. Officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema and ex-officer Jason Rosenblatt are charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence.
Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec are charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon and second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment. Each of the paramedics’ assault charges also carries two counts of crimes of violence.
“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” he said in a statement.
The announcement arrives just over two years after McClain’s death, which began with him being detained and placed in a chokehold by Aurora police. On Aug. 24, 2019; cops confronted McClain while responding to a report about a suspicious person in the area and claimed he “resisted contact.” In a body camera video, the 140-pound massage therapist could be heard telling police he was an introvert and asking them to “please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”
One officer said he thought McClain was reaching for a holstered gun and grabbed him. “A struggle ensued,” police said, and cops used a carotid control hold, which restricts blood flow to the brain. When paramedics arrived, they injected McClain with a dose of ketamine, which an investigative panel later said would have been enough to sedate a 190-pound man.
Around seven minutes after receiving the drug, McClain went into cardiac arrest and had no pulse. Medics were able to revive him, but he was declared brain dead at a hospital and taken off life support less than one week later.
Woodyard and Roedema were placed on desk duty after the incident and are still employed by the department. Rosenblatt, however, was fired last July after posing for photos mocking McClain’s death. A fourth cop also resigned from the department.
In February, an independent investigation commissioned by the city found that the officers and paramedics had no legal basis to detain and drug McClain “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation.”