Sports & General

Split verdict for Colorado police officers tried in death of Elijah McClain


FILE PHOTO: Protesters gather for a rally to call for justice for Elijah McClain in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt/File Photo

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) -A jury in Colorado on Thursday found police officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who died after being roughly restrained and injected with the sedative ketamine.

The same jury found Jason Rosenblatt, another officer jointly tried with Roedema, not guilty on manslaughter and assault charges.

Roedema, who was also found guilty of third-degree assault, will be sentenced on January 5. In making their findings on criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault, jurors chose the less serious of the charges he faced, which included reckless manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Aurora officers Roedema and Rosenblatt were defendants in the first of three trials in the death of McClain. In all, three police officers and two paramedics have been charged in McClain’s death.

“This is the divided states of America, and that’s what happens,” McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, told the Denver Post after the verdict was read. “I’m out. I’m too pissed to talk.”

Aurora Police Chief Art Acevedo, who took over the department late last year, said in a written statement he knew “many have been waiting a long time for the involved parties to have their day in court” and that the department respects “the verdict handed down by the jury.”

Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that the officers unnecessarily brutalized McClain when they stopped him and gave false information to paramedics which contributed to the medical workers administering a large dose of ketamine.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial it was the ketamine that killed McClain, and that paramedics were solely responsible.

A revised autopsy report in September 2022 concluded McClain died from “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.”

A bystander had called 911 to report that McClain was acting suspiciously as he walked home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019, in the Denver suburb of Aurora. McClain, dressed in a winter coat and face mask on a warm night, was listening to music using ear buds and dancing slightly as he walked, security videos showed.

Rosenblatt, Roedema and a third Aurora police officer arrived and grabbed McClain nine seconds after confronting him, according to body camera footage showed by prosecutors. A struggle ensued.

The footage does not show McClain grabbing for a gun, but Roedema can be heard yelling that McClain tried to get Rosenblatt’s weapon. Prosecutors say McClain did not grab for a gun.

The officers put McClain in a “carotid” choke hold at least twice and held him down for 15 minutes until the arrival of medics.

The episode initially received little attention, but the case gained more notice following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Floyd’s death sparked international outrage and fueled protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

This first trial, for two of the officers, opened on Sept. 20. A manslaughter trial for the third officer is expected to open on Friday. Two paramedics are expected to face trial next month.

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