Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser unsealed a 32-count indictment against three officers and two paramedics Wednesday. They are facing charges in the controversial death of Elijah McClain in 2019. The video above shows the announcement and the body cam video released after McClain’s death.
The five people facing charges in McClain’s death are Aurora Police Officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, former Aurora Police Officer Jason Rosenblatt, and Aurora Fire Rescue Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec. “Each of the five defendants face one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide,” Weiser said.
Roedema and Rosenblatt are also 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 face three counts of second-degree assault each.
At the news conference, Weiser said the goal was to seek justice for McClain and his loved ones. “He was a son, a nephew, a brother, a friend,” Weiser said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
McClain was allegedly put into a chokehold and injected with Ketamine without his consent while in police custody on Aug. 24, 2019.
At first, a district attorney said he could not file charges related to McClain’s death because an autopsy could not determine how he died. Then under pressure in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing nationwide protests in 2020, Gov. Jared Polis ordered Weiser to open a new criminal investigation.
McClain’s pleading words — “I’m just different” — were posted on signs at protests and spoken by celebrities who joined those calling for the prosecution of the officers. They had allegedly stopped McClain as he walked down the street after a 911 caller reported that he looked suspicious.
The lawyers for the defendants did not comment. The Aurora Police Association released a statement saying there was no evidence the officers caused McClain’s death. “The hysterical overreaction to this case has severely damaged the police department,” the union said.
The Aurora Police Department has been plagued by allegations of misconduct against people of color. Earlier this summer, an officer was charged with pistol-whipping a black man. The department’s new chief has vowed to work to rebuild public trust.