Elijah McClain’s story was seemingly forgotten as outrage following George Floyd’s death swept the country. Now three cops and two paramedics are being charged for the unlawful death of the 23-year-old black man.
The incident took place seven months prior to the death of George Floyd. But following social media outrage this past summer, multiple investigations began that started to uncover more and more about the Aurora, Co., event. Originally, all police officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing. Now their actions have been reclassified as manslaughter.
After two years, a grand jury on Wednesday returned what grew into a 32-count indictment against Aurora Police officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, paramedic Jeremy Cooper, and Lieutenant Peter Cichuniec. They all face one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Two of the officers face additional counts of second-degree assault. The paramedics who used ketamine to subdue Elijah McClain without consent also face additional charges.
“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” said LaWayne Mosley, Elijah’s father, in an official statement.
According to official accounts of the incident, Elijah McClain was walking home after buying iced tea for his brother at a convenience store on Aug 24, 2019, when officers stopped him saying that someone called “911” and reported that he looked “sketchy.” When officers caught up with McClain at 10:30 p.m., he was wearing a ski mask, which his sister later told the local Denver news was because he “had anemia and would sometimes get cold.”
McClain was unarmed and listening to music when police officers forced him to the ground and said that they had the right to detain anyone that they found suspicious.
In body-cam footage of the arrest, Elijah McClain can be heard panicking in between bouts of vomiting, pleading: “I was just going home. I’m an introvert and I’m different. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why were you attacking me? I don’t do guns. I don’t even kill flies. I don’t eat meat.”
Putting Elijah McClain in two separate carotid holds – the since-banned position of kneeling on a person’s neck to restrict blood flow to the brain – McClain was also given ketamine. The paramedics said it was only meant to sedate him.
On the way to the hospital, McClain went into cardiac arrest. His family claimed that he was brain dead and covered in bruises. He was taken off life support the following day on Aug. 30.
Due to the sheer amount of carotid holds, drugs administered, and medical conditions that McClain already had, the autopsy results came out “undetermined.” Examiners did make note of the neck hemorrhaging and unusual usage of ketamine as possible causes of death.
“Whatever the report says,” argued a lawyer for Elijah McClain’s family, “it’s clear that if the police had not attacked Elijah McClain, he would be alive today.”
After the independent investigation sent the matter back to court, Elijah’s mother Sheneen McClain told CNN that, “it was overwhelming knowing my son was innocent the entire time and just waiting on the facts and proof of it.”
“I thank God that he was my son because just him being born brought life into my world,” she told the local Denver news station after the new indictments were released on Wednesday.
The Aurora Police Association’s board of directors, however, remain firm in their decision that McClain, “died due to a combination of exertion due to his decision to violently resist arrest and a pre-existing heart condition.”
Two years after his death, the new indictments mean that Elijah McClain’s parents now have the chance to seek justice for the wrongful death of their son.