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Grand jury returns 32-count indictment against officers, medics involved in Elijah McClain's death

Elijah McClain
Posted at 10:35 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 12:35:28-04

AURORA, Colo. — A Colorado grand jury returned a 32-count indictment against the three officers and two paramedics involved in the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among other charges, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday.

The three officers involved in the incident that preceded McClain’s death – Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema – as well as Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, each face the counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Roedema and Rosenblatt each face another second-degree assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury charge and one count of a crime of violence.

The two paramedics also face multiple counts of second-degree assault for causing serious bodily injury and using a deadly weapon – the ketamine McClain was injected with after he was accosted by the officers.

Weiser said the indictment was returned by the grand jury last Thursday after it was convened last December. The indictment is being filed in Adams County District Court Wednesday and will be unsealed.

“City leaders respect the judicial process irrespective of the outcome and encourage Aurora residents and others across the country to do the same,” the city of Aurora said in a statement immediately following Weiser’s announcement. “The city has fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office and their investigators throughout their work. The results of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office’s separate investigation into the patterns and practices of APD are still pending. We will provide additional thoughts after today’s news conference concludes”

McClain’s death happened after a violent encounter with police on Aug. 24, 2019, as he walked home from a convenience store. The 23-year-old unarmed Black man was put in a carotid hold and paramedics injected him with a heavy dose of ketamine. He went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead days later before he died on Aug. 30, 2019.

Former Adams County District Attorney Dave Young cleared the three officers involved in McClain’s violent arrest of any criminal charges and Nick Metz, Aurora’s chief of police at the time, said the officers did not violate any of the department’s policies.

The three officers involved in the incident were reassigned in June 2020 amid protests over McClain’s death. Rosenblatt was later fired after an incident involving a photo of other officers at the scene of McClain’s death surfaced.

Weiser announced in January he had launched the grand jury probe into McClain’s death about six months after Gov. Jared Polis named him the special prosecutor in the investigation to look into “any potential criminal activity by law enforcement officers or any individuals” involved in his death.

No charges have previously been announced stemming from Weiser’s investigation or the grand jury probe.

One of the officers involved in the initial incident with McClain, Jason Rosenblatt, and two other officers seen in a photo mocking the carotid hold used on McClain before his death – Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich – were fired after the picture surfaced last year. Another officer seen in the photo, Jaron Jones, resigned from the Aurora Police Department before he could be fired.

The picture was exchanged in a group text and Rosenblatt responded "haha."

Rosenblatt, Marrero, and Dittrich appealed their terminations but the civil service commission upheld all of their terminations.

The grand jury investigation is one of five at the local, state, and federal levels related to McClain’s death or the Aurora Police Department. In June 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil rights Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Denver Division confirmed they were looking at the McClain case for possible civil rights violations that may have occurred.

A team of independent investigators in February released the results of their review of the investigation following McClain’s death, which they found was “flawed” and “failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record.”

The investigators were tasked not with assessing misconduct during the investigation but rather to report back on recommendations that could be learned from it.

Earlier this month, another independent investigation that analyzed the policies and practices within the police department, which was conducted by 21CP Solutions, who was tapped by the city, found a small share of officers were responsible for 40% of officer misconduct cases and that there was too much red tape for the discipline of officers to be effective.

Weiser discussed the indictment in a 10-minute press conference Wednesday morning. Denver7 is expected to speak with Sheneen McClain and others.

This story was originally published by staff at KMGH.