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Elijah McClain case: 3 Colorado cops, 2 paramedics charged with manslaughter, negligent homicide in Black man's death

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Key Points
  • Three Colorado police officers and two paramedics were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.
  • McClain, 23, died after he was stopped by cops while walking on a street in Aurora, Colorado, put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine, a sedative.
  • McClain's death came the summer before the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, another Black man, by Minneapolis cops.
  • Floyd's murder ignited protests nationwide and broad calls for reforms of police departments.
In this June 27, 2020, file photo, demonstrators carry placards as they walk down Sable Boulevard during a rally and march over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colo.
David Zalubowski | AP

Three Colorado police officers and two paramedics were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.

McClain, 23, died less than a week after being stopped by cops while walking on a street in Aurora, Colorado, on Aug. 24, 2019, put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine, a sedative.

Police had confronted the massage therapist after getting a 911 call that reported McClain was acting suspiciously, wearing a mask and waving his arms.

"I can't breathe, please," McClain pleaded with cops as they restrained him, police video shows.

The amount of ketamine injected into McClain in an effort to sedate him was appropriate for a man 50 pounds heavier than his 140-pound frame, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the city of Aurora.

Aurora police have said that McClain "resisted contact, a struggle ensued, and he was taken into custody."

McClain's father, LaWayne Mosley, in a statement after the charges were announced, said, "Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable."

Attorney General Phil Weiser said all five of the defendants had been indicted by a state grand jury that was convened earlier this year after a local prosecutor declined to file charges in the controversial case, which occurred in a Denver suburb.

The 32-count indictment charges all five defendants with a single count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, with some defendants facing other charges.

The officers charged are Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, along with ex-cop Jason Rosenblatt. Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec are the paramedics who were charged.

Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser speaks during a press conference announcing an indictment of the three Aurora police officers and two Aurora fire paramedics in the death of Elijah McClain on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.
Aaron Ontiveroz | MediaNews Group | The Denver Post via Getty Images

"Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and friends and for our state," Weiser told reporters Wednesday.

McClain's death came the summer before the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, another Black man, by Minneapolis cops. Floyd's murder ignited protests nationwide and broad calls for reforms of police departments.

Floyd also had said he could not breathe as a cop kneeled on and around his neck for more than 9 minutes.

In June, a judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who had been convicted at trial, to 22 and a half years in prison for Floyd's murder.

Three other former police officers who stood by as Chauvin killed Floyd are scheduled for trial on related charges in March.