Elijah McClain: Paramedics found guilty as several police evade accountability

Aurora, Colorado - A jury in Colorado on Friday found two paramedics guilty of negligent homicide in the killing of Elijah McClain, who was put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine during his arrest.

People gather at a candlelight vigil to demand justice for Elijah McClain, who died after being put in a chokehold by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics.
People gather at a candlelight vigil to demand justice for Elijah McClain, who died after being put in a chokehold by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics.  © Rich Fury / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

In August 2019, Elijah McClain, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man, died several days after a struggle with police and after being injected with the sedative by attending paramedics, in a case that caused widespread anger at the time.

The jury found the two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper (49) and Peter Cichuniec (51), guilty of criminally negligent homicide, the Washington Post reported.

McClain died after police in the city of Aurora responded to a call about a "suspicious" Black male "acting weird" in the street and wearing a ski mask.

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One officer said McClain, who was unarmed, had reached for another officer's gun. No evidence was produced to support this claim.

McClain's family told media he had been out buying iced tea, and often wore the mask to stay warm because he suffered from anemia.

In October, a jury found a white police officer guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the case, while another two officers were cleared.

Paramedics accused of ignoring their training with Elijah McClain

Hundreds of people occupy the space around the Aurora Police Station to protest the killing of Elijah McClain.
Hundreds of people occupy the space around the Aurora Police Station to protest the killing of Elijah McClain.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

McClain's death occurred months before the killing of another Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis in May 2020, triggered a nationwide protests over racism and police brutality.

The paramedics' lawyers argued that their clients had simply followed protocol in administering the drug, but prosecutors said they had ignored their training in handling distressed patients.

"There was no indication that Elijah needed ketamine, and you’ve heard multiple experts say that giving it was for no medical purpose," prosecutor Shannon Stevenson said in closing arguments, media reported.

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"Defendants here never did one thing to try to obtain Elijah McClain’s consent to any treatment – and no reasonable person would consent to an overdose of a drug that they did not need."

CNN noted that it is rare for paramedics to face charges in relation to the death of the person they were treating.

Cover photo: Rich Fury / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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