A Colorado grand jury on Wednesday sought criminal charges, including manslaughter and homicide, against three Denver police officers and two paramedics in the death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine, a powerful sedative, in 2019.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said a grand jury indicted Officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt and fire department paramedic Jeremy Cooper and fire Lt. Peter Cichuniec on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Although the 23-year-old’s death initially sparked little interest outside Aurora, it gained widespread attention during last year’s protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In August 2019, McClain was walking home when he was detained by police responding to a 911 call reporting the massage therapist looked suspicious.
His pleading words captured on police body camera video — "I’m just different" — were posted on signs at protests and chanted by celebrities who joined those calling for the prosecution of the officers.
Meanwhile, Roedema and Rosenblatt were each charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence related to the assault charge. Cooper and Cichuniec also each face three counts of second-degree assault.
“Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and his friends,” Weiser said at a brief news conference, where he didn't take questions.
“He was a son, a nephew, a brother, a friend. When he died, he was only 23 years old,” Weiser said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
McClain has been described by his family and friends as a gentle and kind introvert. Stories of how he volunteered to play his violin to comfort cats at an animal shelter filled social media.
The Aurora Police Department has been plagued by allegations of misconduct against people of colour, including an officer charged this summer with pistol-whipping a Black man during an arrest. The department’s new chief has vowed to rebuild public trust, according to Associated Press inputs.
With inputs from the Associated Press