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Elijah McClain case: Arraignment postponed for 3 officers, 2 paramedics

None of the officers or paramedics charged in connection to the 2019 death of Elijah McClain entered pleas on Friday.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Five people indicted in connection with the 2019 death of Elijah McClain appeared in court Friday, though none of them entered pleas yet in the case and a new arraignment was scheduled for Nov. 4.

On Aug. 24, 2019, Aurora Police Department (APD) officers contacted McClain while he was walking home from a convenience store where he'd gone to pick up a drink. Three days later, on Aug. 27, he died at a hospital of undetermined causes, according to the Adams County Coroner's Office.

The now-former 17th Judicial District Attorney declined to charge any of the officers involved in the altercation, and in January 2021, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that a grand jury investigation had been opened.

> Video above: Aurora officers and paramedics involved in Elijah McClain's death to appear in court.

Former APD Officer Jason Rosenblatt and current Officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema were arrested in September 2021 after the statewide grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against them.

Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were also indicted.

Each of the five people indicted faced one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide.

Credit: Glendale Police Department
Current Aurora officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, and former Aurora officer Jason Rosenblatt

Roedema and Rosenblatt also faced a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of a crime of violence, which is a sentencing enhancer related to that assault charge.

Cichuniec and Cooper also faced a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury. They faced a second assault charge for "recklessly" causing injury with a deadly weapon, which in this case was related to the use of the sedative ketamine. They also faced a sentencing enhancer for both of those assault charges.

Credit: Glendale Police Department
Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper

During their contact with McClain, the officers threw him to the ground and put him into a carotid hold, while paramedics administered 500 mg of ketamine to sedate him.

According to the indictment, after the incident, Roedema told investigators that in Aurora, they "tend to control it before it needs to be controlled." At one point he also told investigators he had "cranked pretty hard" on McClain's shoulder and heard it pop three times, the indictment says.

Roedema also said at the scene that McClain had reached for "your gun," but the indictment says neither Rosenblatt nor Woodyard knew whose gun Roedema was referencing. He later said he was referring to Rosenblatt's gun, but Rosenblatt said he didn't feel any contact with his service weapon.

At one point during the confrontation, Woodyard "remained on top of him [McClain] and continued to hold him to the ground despite pleas that he could not breathe," the indictment says.

RELATED: Elijah McClain case: Paramedics rarely face criminal charges for actions during calls

According to the indictment, the paramedics overestimated McClain's weight by roughly 57 pounds and administered a dose of ketamine that was appropriate for a person weighing 77 pounds more than him. 

The two also "did not properly monitor" McClain during or after the drug was administered, according to the indictment, which resulted in "multiple predictable complications."

RELATED: Firings upheld for 3 officers in case of photo taken near Elijah McClain memorial

Rosenblatt, who was named in the indictment, was fired after responding "ha ha" to a text message he received of other officers depicting a chokehold near a memorial for McClain.

All four of the current employees were placed on unpaid leave, according to the city.

A separate, scathing report was issued in September of last year following a 14-month investigation into the practices of the Aurora police and fire departments. It was sparked by a number of high-profile incidents, including McClain's death.

It found that APD officers engage in racially biased policing – treating Blacks and other ethnic minorities differently than whites – and repeatedly use “unlawful and unconstitutional” excessive force. As a result of that investigation, the departments operated under a consent decree.

RELATED: Consent Decree outlines changes Aurora must make in police, fire departments

In November, the City of Aurora reached a $15 million settlement with the family of McClain, which resolved a civil lawsuit filed by the family related to his death.

The city’s excess liability insurance policy will cover $10 million of the settlement – the maximum amount the policy will pay. The remaining $5 million will be paid out of the city’s General Fund.

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