Five former Colorado police officers and paramedics will face charges in the death of a young massage therapist who was stopped by cops on his way home from the store in 2019. Despite an earlier ruling to the contrary, a judge has ruled that there is sufficient evidence on the prosecution’s side to proceed with criminal charges.
On Monday, July 18, Judge Priscilla Loew of the 17th Judicial District ruled that Nathan Woodyard, Randy Roedema, and Jason Rosenblatt of the Aurora Police Department, as well as Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper of the town’s emergency response, should face trial on a total of 32 counts for their roles in Elijah McClain’s death in August 2019, according to EMS1.
All of the men were previously indicted by a grand jury in September 2021, but they were never tried because an Arapahoe County judge determined the evidence against them would not stand up in court.
Loew decided to proceed with the case after reviewing thousands of pages of testimony and evidence.
“After reviewing the grand jury materials, the court finds, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the people and with all inferences in favor of the prosecution, there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for each of the counts listed in the grand jury indictment filed with the court on Sept. 1,” the judge wrote in her order.
According to court documents, the men are scheduled for an in-person arraignment in court on Friday, Aug. 12, almost three years after McClain’s untimely death.
On August 24, 2019, the 23-year-old, who had a blood circulation disorder, was returning home from a local convenience store where he had purchased a bottle of ice tea. Someone reported seeing a suspicious person walking around the neighborhood, and when police arrived, they believed McClain, who was wearing a ski mask, was their suspect.
Woodyard, Roedema, and Rosenblatt confronted McClain about being out around 10:30 p.m., and he nervously replied that he didn’t have a gun and just wanted his personal space. Their bodycams captured the incident.
“Because I am an introvert, please respect the boundaries within which I am speaking.” “Leave me alone,” McClain can be heard saying in the video.
The interaction became heated when he was dissatisfied with his answers. One officer even threatened McClain with his dog if he did not comply with their demands, despite the fact that he had committed no crime. As a result of his resistance, cops used two illegal carotid chokeholds on McClain twice as they attempted to subdue him. The young man passed out but briefly regained consciousness before vomiting.
Two paramedics, Cichuniec and Cooper, arrived on the scene and quickly assessed the situation. It took them about 15 minutes to decide on a course of action. In their haste, they misdiagnosed him with “excited delirium” and administered 500 mg of ketamine to the 143-pound man — a dose that would have been excessive for a 200-pound person.
As a result, McClain’s pulse stopped, he stopped breathing, and he went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to the hospital and placed in a coma for four days before a doctor declared him brain dead.
After filing a civil rights lawsuit over McClain’s arrest, which demonstrated excessive force and resulted in his untimely death, the McClain family reached a historic $15 million settlement with the city of Aurora in November 2021. According to records, this was the largest settlement the Aurora police department had ever reached with anyone.
Nonetheless, the family wants all five people charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Loew’s decision gives Sheheen McClain, the deceased’s mother, and her relatives hope that these men will serve time for their actions. Iris Halpern, the family’s attorney, stated that accountability is critical because their actions impacted more than just the life that was lost as a result of them.
“Throughout the case and the pain they’ve endured, we’ve stood by the family,” she told ABC News. “These are real people with families, and this issue affects not only the victim but those who surround them in the aftermath.”
The Aurora Police Department and the city’s emergency services both declined to comment on the judge’s decision.