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Former police officer faces sentencing in Elijah McClain’s death

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(AURORA, Colo.) — Randy Roedema, a former Aurora, Colorado, police officer, will be sentenced Friday after being convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree in the August 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.

A jury found Roedema guilty on Oct. 13 in the first trial concerning McClain’s death. Roedema had pleaded not guilty.

For criminally negligent homicide, a class 5 felony, and assault in the third degree, a class 1 misdemeanor, Roedema could face several years in prison.

Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, who was simultaneously tried was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter, assault in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide. The first officer on the scene, Nathan Woodyard, was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Two paramedics connected to McClain’s death were separately convicted of criminally negligent homicide in McClain’s death on Dec. 23.

Paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper were accused of administering an excessive amount of ketamine to sedate McClain after his encounter with police.

Cichuniec was also found guilty of assault in the second-degree unlawful administration of drugs. Cooper was found not guilty of assault in the second-degree unlawful administration of drugs.

They were both acquitted of assault in the second degree with intent to cause bodily injury. They had both pleaded not guilty to their charges.

In a statement following the convictions of Cichuniec and Cooper, Elijah’s mother Sheenen McClain said that three convictions out of five “isn’t justice and that the only thing the convictions serve is a very small acknowledgment for accountability in the justice system.”

The deadly incident

In August 24, 2019, McClain was confronted by police while walking home from a convenience store after a 911 caller told authorities they had seen someone “sketchy” in the area.

McClain was unarmed and wearing a ski mask at the time. His family says he had anemia, a blood condition that can make people feel cold more easily.

When officers arrived on the scene, they told McClain they had a right to stop him because he was “being suspicious.”

In police body camera footage, McClain can be heard telling police he was going home, and that “I have a right to go where I am going.”

Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid hold and he, Roedema and Rosenblatt moved McClain by force to the grass and continued to restrain him.

McClain told officers during their encounter that he was having trouble breathing. McClain was choking on his vomit while restrained, prosecutor Jonathan Bunge stated in the trial.

When EMTs arrived at the scene, McClain 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 weighed 143 pounds, but was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for someone his size and overdosed, according to Adams County coroner’s office pathologist Stephen Cina in his testimony.

McClain’s cause of death, which was previously listed as “undetermined,” was listed in an amended autopsy report as “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.” The manner of death remained listed as “undetermined” as it was in the initial report.

He died on Aug. 30, 2019, three days after doctors pronounced him brain dead and he was removed from life support, officials said.

The prosecution in Roedema’s case argued that the officers violated department protocol by using excessive force against McClain. Bunge argued that the two men failed to de-escalate the situation. The defense argued they were following department protocols.

“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 during opening arguments.

The defense said 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. A defense attorney for Cooper, the EMT, argued there is a lack of protocol for the situation these paramedics found themselves in.

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