5 Colorado first responders charged in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain have pleaded not guilty to all charges


The five Aurora, Colorado first responders indicted by a state grand jury in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain pleaded not guilty to all charges Friday afternoon in an Adams County courthouse.

Aurora Police Officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, former officer Jason Rosenblatt, and Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were each charged with manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter on a 32-count indictment in September 2021.

McClain, a 23-year-old black man, was walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24 when he was arrested by Aurora police officers responding to a call from a “suspect,” according to the indictment.

Officers pinned McClain to the ground after a brief physical struggle. Woodyard then applied a carotid grip that caused McClain to lose consciousness, the indictment says.

As evidence for the grand jury, Roedema also put McClain in a bar hammer lock. Roedema stated he cranked McClain’s shoulder “pretty hard” and heard it pop three times.

Eventually paramedics arrived at the scene. According to the indictment, Cooper made the decision to administer a 500 mg dose of ketamine.

“A correct dosage of ketamine is calculated based on a patient’s weight, with 5 mg of ketamine per kilogram of patient weight,” the grand jury indictment reads.

“Cooper said he estimates Mr. McClain’s weight is approximately 200 pounds (90.7 kg). At that weight, in accordance with the standing order of their medical director, Mr. McClain should have been administered 453 mg of ketamine,” the indictment reads.

“Cooper administered 500 mg of ketamine. Mr. McClain actually weighed 143 pounds (65 kg) and as such his weight-based ketamine dose should have been closer to 325 mg of ketamine.”

After McClain dosed him, officers and paramedics placed him on a stretcher.

“When placed on the stretcher, Mr. McClain appeared unconscious, had no muscle tone, was flaccid and had visible vomit coming from his nose and mouth,” the indictment states. “[Officer]Roedema said he had Mr. McClain snoring, which may be a sign of a ketamine overdose.”

Paramedics determined he had no pulse and was not breathing and administered CPR. He never regained consciousness and was pronounced brain dead on August 27, according to the indictment.

Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, Jeremy Cooper, Jason Rosenblatt and Peter Cichuniec.

The original autopsy report listed McClain’s cause of death as “undetermined.” An amended autopsy report, completed in 2021 and released last September, says McClain’s death was caused by complications from post-restraint ketamine injection. The manner of death was left “undetermined”.

Aurora Police confirmed to CNN that Woodyard and Roedema remain indefinitely suspended without pay. Rosenblatt was released from the department in 2020.

Ahead of her arraignment Friday in court in Adams County, Colorado, a district court judge ruled that the trials of five defendants in McClain’s death be divided.

Paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper will be tried together but separately from the other three defendants in the case, Judge Mark Warner announced in an order issued Wednesday.

Aurora police officer Woodyard will be tried separately from officers Roedema and former officer Rosenblatt, Warner said.

The trial date for Roedema and Rosenblatt is set to begin on July 11. Cooper and Cichuniec’s trial is scheduled to begin August 7 and Woodyard’s trial is scheduled to begin September 18.

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