Aurora police advance at City Center Park in Aurora during a protest on June 27, 2020, in response to the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police. (Photo by John Moore)
Three Aurora police officers and two paramedics who were indicted on manslaughter charges in the death of Elijah McClain turned themselves in to the Glendale Police Service on Wednesday, the service confirmed.
“They were processed, posted bond and released,” Capt. Michael Gross of Glendale Police told Newsline in an email.
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Each of the five people charged — Aurora Police Department officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema; and Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec — had a bond of $10,000 set by Judge Priscilla Loew of Adams County District Court. The five suspects are described in court documents as Caucasian men in their 30s and 40s.
As of Thursday, no hearing dates had been scheduled for any of the defendants.
Woodyard, 32, and Roedema, 39, were still working with the Aurora Police Department when Attorney General Phil Weiser on Wednesday announced their indictment by a state grand jury. They were immediately suspended without pay, an Aurora police spokesperson said Wednesday. Rosenblatt, 32, was fired following an internal police department investigation after he responded “haha” to a photo of fellow officers reenacting a chokehold at the site of McClain’s arrest.
A spokesperson for Aurora Fire confirmed Thursday that Cooper, 46, and Cichuniec, 48, had been “separated” from employment following the indictment, per city charter.
The 25-page grand jury indictment released Wednesday lays out the “essential facts” of the case.
McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was walking home from an Aurora convenience store with a bag containing iced tea on Aug. 24, 2019.
Someone driving nearby called 911 and reported a person acting strangely. Woodyard — who had been employed with the police department for nearly three years at the time — was the first officer to arrive, the indictment says. Woodyard noted that McClain was carrying a grocery bag and appeared “suspicious.”
Rosenblatt and Roedema immediately joined Woodyard on the scene.
According to the indictment, Rosenblatt soon attempted to perform a “carotid control hold” on McClain to cut off blood flow to his brain and cause temporary unconsciousness, according to the indictment. The attempt was unsuccessful, and it took a second try from Woodyard to knock McClain “unconscious and snoring.” Roedema also placed McClain’s hand behind his back. He later stated that he “cranked pretty hard” on McClain’s shoulder and heard it pop three times, according to the indictment.
After paramedics arrived, McClain was injected with ketamine, a powerful tranquilizer, at a dose much higher than was appropriate for someone of his body weight. McClain was transported to the hospital in an ambulance and taken off life support six days later.
All five defendants face charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in McClain’s death.
Under state law, reckless manslaughter is classified as a class 4 felony, which normally comes with a fine between $2,000 and $500,000, between two and six years of prison time, and three years parole. A conviction of criminally negligent homicide, a class 5 felony, comes with a fine from $1,000 to $100,000, one to three years prison time and two years parole.
In addition to the manslaughter and negligent homicide charges, Cichuniec and Cooper were indicted on three counts of second-degree assault. The assault charges include recklessly causing serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon, drugging a victim and causing serious bodily injury with intent.
Second-degree assault is a class 4 felony under Colorado law.
Rosenblatt and Roedema each face one count of second-degree assault on top of the manslaughter and negligent homicide counts. Their assault charges are for allegedly causing serious bodily injury with intent.
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