Just after two years since the death of 23-year Elijah McClain, a grand jury has returned a 32 count indictment against Aurora Police Officers involved in his passing. Upon a third-party investigation spurred by public outcry, the original story presented from the APD now has major flaws and conflicting accounts of the incident going through the responding officer’s own reports.
Randy Rodema, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, Jeremy Cooper, and Peter Cichuniec are being charged each with one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Rodema and Rosenblatt additionally face an extra charge of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and caused serious bodily injury. Related to this count they are each indicted for a crime of violence.
Paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec are landing further indictments for second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and caused bodily injury, second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and caused bodily injury by use of a deadly weapon (the ketamine), one count second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful, medical, or therapeutic treatment intentionally causing stupor unconsciousness or other physical or mental impairment or injury by administering a drug without consent. These indictments will be held unsealed at the Adams County District Court in Colorado.
Behind the long list of their formal indictments, it’s paramount to know the backstory of what happened to the young African American, Elijah McCain. His death occurred before the viral case of George Floyd’s and the subsequent rise of the BLM movement.
McCain was walking home around 10:30 pm one night from a gas station nearby where he had purchased an iced tea for his brother. A dispatch team was summoned after a call came in about a “sketchy” looking guy in a ski mask. Within 10 seconds of boots hitting the ground, one of the officers had his hands on McCain. Which the officers blamed on McCain for doing so, claiming the boy had reached for a gun- although their stories all contradict one another’s on whose gun he was reaching for. Additionally, you can hear in the bodycam footage McCain tell the officers he was reaching to turn down his music to better listen to them. Fast forward 15 minutes: McCain has 500ml of “therapeutic” ketamine coursing through his system, is battered and bruised, and dying of cardiac arrest.
The events in-between are what have been under intense investigation and finalized the official indictment counts for all involved officers and paramedics. By combining the evidence of body-cam footage, videotaped interviews with responding officers, follow-up reports, notes from the scene, the 911 call and dispatch record, the autopsy report, medical records, and more totaling 157 pages. An independent investigation found that the APD had stretched the truth and presented manipulative accounts rather than neutral, unbiased truth.
Though highly unlikely of escaping all charges, indictments are not convictions and the final truths of what happened will come to light in the trials ahead. As far as the officers, photos that were taken in October at the memorial for Elijah were discovered showing officers jokingly reenacting the restraint used on McClain with all officers smiling. Following the leak, one officer resigned and the other three were fired immediately.