(DENVER) — Jury deliberations have begun in the trial of Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt, two Denver police officers who are facing manslaughter charges related to the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.
The two men have pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent reckless homicide and assault charges.
The trial has lasted about a month, with opening arguments starting on Sept. 20.
The prosecution argued that the officers violated department protocol by using excessive force against McClain. Prosecutor Jonathan Bunge argued that the men failed to deescalate the situation.
“When Elijah is on the ground handcuffed, he’s saying over and over and over again, ‘I can’t breathe. Please help me,'” said Bunge, who added that McClain threw up after the chokehold and was drowning in vomit.
The defense argued that the officers followed their department policies and training, instead blaming McClain’s death on the EMTs who later arrived at the scene and gave McClain a shot of ketamine. The EMTs also claimed they were following department protocol at the time.
“Just because a tragedy occurred doesn’t mean criminality occurred,” said Roedema’s attorney Reid Elkus.
McClain died after being stopped by police on his way home from a convenience store in August of 2019. A passerby called 911 to report McClain as acting “sketchy” with a ski mask on; however, the caller said there was no weapon and that no one was in danger at the time.
In police body camera footage, McClain can be heard saying, “I have a right to where I am going.”
An officer told McClain he had a right to stop him because he was “being suspicious.”
Police placed McClain in a chokehold. McClain can be heard pleading with them, saying he can’t breathe correctly.
When EMTs arrived at the scene, he was given a shot of 500 milligrams of ketamine for “rapid tranquilization in order to minimize time struggling,” according to department policy, and was loaded into an ambulance where he had a heart attack, according to investigators.
McClain’s cause of death, which was previously listed as “undetermined,” was listed in the amended report as “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.” The manner of death remained listed as “undetermined” as it was in the initial report.
Three other people charged in connection with McClain’s death will be tried at a later date.
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