Malaika Jabali www.essence.com
A Colorado grand jury indicted three police officers and two paramedics on Wednesday in the killing of Elijah McClain. The indictment comes about about two years after his death.
Elijah McClain was a young Black man walking home from a convenience store when police officers in Aurora, Colorado violently apprehended the 23 year-old and placed him in a chokehold in 2019. Paramedics called to the scene then injected McClain with the anesthetic ketamine. The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, says the paramedics failed to follow medical protocols after the ketamine injection, the New York Times reports.
McClain’s death was pushed to the mainstream after the police killing of George Floyd gained worldwide attention. Activists pressed for answers in McClain’s killing, which had gone mostly unnoticed on a national level prior to last year’s spate of protests.
Sheneen McClain, the victim’s mother, told the Times, “[i]t 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.”
“He never should’ve been killed. 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,” she added.
Images of Elijah McClain playing the violin went viral as news spread of the police killing, and a violin vigil was held in his honor.
On the day of the police encounter, officers were called to the scene after a caller reported Elijah as “suspicious.” Officers falsely accused McClain of being violent, as body camera footage showed the young man apologizing and crying out in pain. The chokehold officers applied stops blood flow to the brain, after which McClain was rendered unconscious. After paramedics injected him with ketamine, he suffered a heart attack and was ultimately taken off life support.
The defendants are three Aurora police officers— Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired in 2020. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec of the Aurora Fire Department. The city indicated that those officers and medics still with the department would be suspended without pay, the New York Times reports.
Each defendant faces a charge of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and there are an additional 32 counts among them. Officer Rodema, former officer Rosenblatt, and paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec also face one count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury. Those two paramedics were also charged with one count of second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious injury by means of a deadly weapon via ketamine, among other charges.
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