Grand jury in Elijah McClain investigation charges Aurora police officers

In Colorado, Aurora police, medics indicted for 2019 death of Elijah McClain

Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser held a press conference Wednesday and announced the three Aurora police officers and two fire paramedics involved in the death of Elijah McClain will be facing charges. A grand jury on Thursday returned a 32-count indictment. Five defendants will each face one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide.

State Attorney General Phil Weiser on Wednesday said the five defendants will be charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as other charges in the 32-count indictment.

The officers named in the indictment are Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

Elijah McClain, 23, died after being thrown to the ground, put into a now-banned carotid artery chokehold and being injected with the tranquilizer ketamine by Aurora police and medics during the Aug. 24, 2019 encounter. Police were responding to a 911 call that he had worn a face mask into a convenience store to buy some iced tea. He was not accused of a crime by the caller, who thought he looked suspicious and reported he was Black.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe please. I can’t. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, please stop,” McClain begged officers, according to body-worn camera footage.

“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said Wednesday in a statement. McClain’s family is suing Aurora police, individual officers and the medics.

Frustrated by the internal police investigation into McClain’s death, Gov. Jared Polis ordered a state investigation. A federal civil rights investigation into McClain’s death is ongoing.

Elijah McClain is shown in a hospital bed before he died in 2019 following a violent encounter with police in Aurora, Colorado.

“Whenever a person dies after an encounter with law enforcement, the community deserves a thorough investigation. Mr. McClain’s family deserves it. And justice requires it,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Wednesday. “Make no mistake, we recognize this case will be difficult to prosecute. In so doing, we advance the rule of law and the commitment that everyone is accountable and equal under the law.”

McClain died days after the incident.

“This week marks the two-year anniversary of Elijah’s tragic death, and we know his family mourns him. It brought back painful memories for me like it did for scores of Aurora residents and other people across the country. We must remember that no civil or criminal investigation will erase the pain and heartbreak of Elijah’s loss.

City leaders thank the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the members of the Grand Jury for their commitment to a resolution. We respect the judicial process and ask that everyone else do the same. The city has cooperated fully with the Attorney General’s Office and its investigators throughout their thorough and thoughtful work, including their separate investigation into the patterns and practices of the APD, which is still pending. Pursuant to Aurora’s City Charter, any member of the Civil Service, which would include police officers and firefighters, indicted on a felony charge is immediately and indefinitely suspended without pay. This effectively separates the employee from the city of Aurora pending the outcome of the criminal case.

You have heard me say that we will not waver from our commitment to ‘A New Way’ of policing in Aurora and that holds true today. We are also committed to supporting our officers while we ask them to meet our community’s expectations of transparency and reform. We want our community to know we continue to make multidimensional changes across numerous departments. We continue to collaborate between city, state and community leaders, and the hardworking officers who embrace the work and bravely protect our city.

This tragedy has greatly changed and shaped Aurora. Today’s announcement is an important step in restoring the community’s trust in Aurora’s public safety agencies and in honoring Elijah’s life.”

“For more than two years our community has grieved the death of a precious life. Our community demanded answers and continually questioned the circumstances surrounding Elijah’s death and we are committed to fully cooperating as the judicial process moves forward. We want to share again our deepest expression of sympathy to the family members and friends of Elijah McClain.”

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