Two police officers, a former officer, and two paramedics will face charges in the death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was detained, placed in a chokehold, and later died in 2019.
The indictment follows an eight-month investigation by the state’s top prosecutor. Colorado State Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday all five defendants would be charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide as well as other charges in the 32-count indictment.
The three cops indicted are Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and former officer Jason Rosenblatt. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.
After hearing about the indictment, McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, cried tears of joy.
“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” Mosley said in a statement.
The announcement comes two years after McClain’s death, which prompted months of protests and calls for justice that turned into a nation and worldwide movement after the death of George Floyd.
McClain left a corner store after buying iced tea in Aurora the night of Aug. 24, 2019. McClain was wearing a ski mask due to a blood disorder that made him cold. The three officers were responding to a report of someone wearing a ski mask and waving his arms.
Bodycam footage showed the cops ordering McClain to stop. McClain responded by telling the officer he was an introvert and asked the officers to respect his boundaries. Police eventually grabbed and threw McClain to the ground as one cop believed McClain was carrying a holstered weapon.
A struggle ensued, and officers rendered a chokehold on McClain, which, according to NBC News, restricts blood to the brain to make a person lose consciousness. The paramedics were called to the scene and injected McClain with ketamine to sedate him.
Less than 10 minutes later, McClain was found to have no pulse and went into cardiac arrest, according to a report released in 2019 from local prosecutor Dave Young. Medics revived McClain, but he was declared brain dead and taken off life support a week later.
The Adams County Coroner’s Office determined McClain’s death was due to “undetermined causes,” and the “evidence does not support the prosecution of homicide.” However, the coroner added that the chokehold along with the ketamine might have contributed to his death.
The Aurora Police Department has since banned chokeholds. Woodyard and Roedema were moved to non-enforcement duties, and Rosenblatt was fired last July after an investigation uncovered a selfie photo session near a memorial site for McClain. A fourth officer also resigned.
An independent investigation by the city found the cops had no justification to stop, detain, or use force on McClain, and the paramedics sedated him “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation” and used more ketamine than necessary to sedate him.