A Colorado jury convicted on Thursday one of the two former Aurora, Colorado police officers charged in the death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who died upon being restrained and injected with ketamine. In a split decision, the jury found officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide but acquitted officer Jason Rosenblatt.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser issued a statement after the verdict, stating:
Today’s verdict is about accountability; everyone is accountable and equal under the law. And hopefully today’s verdict is another step in the healing process for the Aurora community and the state. I recognize that some people may not agree with the verdict, but we all must respect the jury system, which is a pillar of our democratic republic.
McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain spoke to reporters for local station Denver7 following the verdict, expressing her frustration with the decision to acquit one of the officers and convict the other. She said:
America is divided in so many ways, on so many levels, and in so many areas of understanding. If America ever wants to be great, then it has to enforce equity as well as equality that is represented in every law and seat that every citizen is governed by. Don’t say sorry to me for humans that fail even their own kind. My soul still cries out for Divine Justice For My Son Elijah McClain.
In August 2019, the officers confronted 23-year-old McClain after receiving a call about a “suspicious person.” Nathan Woodyard, a third involved police officer who is being tried separately, put McClain in a carotid control hold, applying pressure to both sides of McClain’s neck. Paramedics then injected McClain with ketamine, a strong sedative. McClain went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brain dead several days later.
Shortly thereafter, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an order requiring an investigation into the individuals involved in McClain’s death. In September 2021, a grand jury indicted the three police officers and two paramedics on a combined total of 32 counts. Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, the paramedics, are also scheduled to have their own trial.
An independent investigation, commissioned by the City of Aurora, found that the officers did not have sound legal basis to stop, search and use a carotid control hold to restrain McClain. An amended autopsy report concluded that McClain “died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.” Further, the forensic pathologist who wrote the report opined, “McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine. As such, this report was ultimately a key piece of evidence for defense counsel.
In response to Thursday’s verdict, Aurora Police Chief Art Acevedo released a statement expressing “respect [for] the verdict.” Acevedo also noted that “many have been waiting a long time for the involved parties to have their day in court.”