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Colo. officers, paramedics charged in Elijah McClain’s death

Three police officers and two paramedics face charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among others

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Demonstrators shut down a highway in both directions as they demand justice for Elijah McClain on June 27, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado.

Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Attorney Gen. Phil Weiser announced 32 charges against Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former Aurora police officer Jason Rosenblatt, and paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

Paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec each face second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious injury by means of a deadly weapon. The paramedics also face a charge of second-degree assault for a purpose other than medical or therapeutic treatment intentionally causing stupor unconsciousness or other physical or mental impairment or injury to McClain by administering ketamine without consent, according to the report.

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By Noelle Phillips and Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post

DENVER — Attorney General Phil Weiser will make an announcement Wednesday morning on the grand jury investigation into the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police and paramedics two years ago.

Gov. Jared Polis in June 2020 designated Weiser as a special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death and determine whether the officers and paramedics involved should face criminal charges. Weiser in January announced he would use a state grand jury to make the determination.

McClain’s mother Sheneen has been demanding prosecutors file criminal charges against those involved since his death. Her demands were echoed by thousands across the country in the summer of 2020 when people protesting the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer took up McClain’s cause and launched him into the national conversation.

If the officers and paramedics are indicted, it will be the first time anyone involved in McClain’s death has faced any punishment for their actions that night.

On Wednesday morning, Aurora police spokesman Lt. Chris Amsler said, “City leaders respect the judicial process irrespective of the outcome and encourage Aurora residents and others across the country to do the same. The city has fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office and their investigators throughout their work.”

He said the department would be prepared to comment after the announcement.

McClain was walking to a convenience store to purchase tea the night of Aug. 24, 2019, when someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. The three Aurora police officers contacted McClain as he returned home.

When McClain refused to stop walking, the officers tackled him to the ground, handcuffed him and used a carotid choke hold to block the flow of blood to his brain. Officers ignored McClain’s pleas to leave him alone. Paramedics injected him with 500 mg of ketamine, a powerful sedative, before taking him to the hospital.

McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, where he was later declared brain dead. He died Aug. 30, 2019, after being removed from life support.

Adams County’s then-District Attorney Dave Young cleared the police officers of any criminal wrongdoing and Nick Metz, Aurora’s police chief at the time, determined the officers had not violated any of the department’s policies.

Weiser also launched a probe into the Aurora Police Department’s practices and policies. That investigation is ongoing.

A consulting firm hired by city leaders to examine McClain’s death found Aurora police made substantial errors at nearly every stage of their interaction with McClain and while investigating themselves after his death.

McClain’s parents also filed a federal lawsuit against Aurora and the police officers and paramedics involved in their son’s death. Sheneen McClain’s attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said all sides continue to work on a resolution, and court filings indicate a settlement is in the works.

All along, Sheneen McClain has said she wants nothing more than for the people who are responsible for her son’s death to be punished by spending time in prison. She even wears T-shirts with that demand printed on them.

“Bullies with badges and their accomplices murdered my son!!!! Protecting killers is a crime” is written on a shirt that she told The Denver Post is one of her favorites.

(c)2021 The Denver Post