Black Lives Matter: Three police officers and two paramedics face charges in death of Elijah McClain

Aurora, Colorado - Three police officers and two paramedics were indicted on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in the death of a young Black man named Elijah McClain – two years after the incident took place.

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators surrounded the Aurora Police Station on July 3, 2020, to protest the death of Elijah McClain and others.
Hundreds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators surrounded the Aurora Police Station on July 3, 2020, to protest the death of Elijah McClain and others.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

McClain was 23 years old when he was stopped by police while walking home from the convenience store in August 2019. The officers then put him in a chokehold, the New York Times reported.

The police were responding to a call about a "sketchy"-looking person in a ski mask spotted in the area. McClain, who was Black, was unarmed and had no criminal history.

When paramedics arrived, they injected the young man, then in handcuffs, with a dose of ketamine enough to knock out a 200-pound person, though McClain only weighed 143 pounds, according to CNN. They then allegedly failed to check his vital signs or monitor his condition, which is the normal procedure after administering such a powerful drug.

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McClain went into cardiac arrest at the scene. After being transferred to the hospital, he was declared brain dead three days later. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as "undetermined."

The tragic loss shocked people who knew Elijah. They described him as a gentle person with a big love for animals and playing his violin.

In an audio recording from the incident, McClain can be heard pleading with the officers: "I’m an introvert and I’m different. I’m just different. That’s all. That’s all I was doing. I’m so sorry."

He said he was just trying to go home and repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe.

Officers and paramedics face indictment

Violinists warm up to play during a Black Lives Matter vigil for Elijah McClain in New York on June 29, 2020.
Violinists warm up to play during a Black Lives Matter vigil for Elijah McClain in New York on June 29, 2020.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The three officers involved – Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, and Jason Rosenblatt – and the two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, are now being indicted on a total of 32 charges, including criminally negligent homicide.

McClain's mother has been hoping for this day for years. She was devastated by the news of her son's death and has been fighting for accountability and change ever since, facing many hurdles along the way.

"It was my job to make sure the whole world knew about him and how he was killed unjustly and through no fault of his own," she told the New York Times after the indictment was announced.

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"He never should’ve been killed," she added. "Elijah believed in our humanity. He showed more humanity to those that killed him than the ones who were supposed to protect and serve him. He believed in our capacity to love one another."

Progressive lawmakers have described the indictment as "a step toward accountability," with Missouri Rep. Cori Bush calling it "the bare minimum."

Charles Booker of Kentucky, who narrowly missed becoming the 2020 Democratic nominee to take on Senator Mitch McConnell and has already announced his 2022 bid to challenge Rand Paul, said true justice will only come when "we work together to dismantle the system that allowed this tragedy to take place to begin with."

The officers have been suspended without pay since they were indicted on felony charges.

The Aurora Police Association continues to deny the officers did anything wrong, calling outrage over the case "hysterical overreaction."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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