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Three Officers and Two Paramedics Are Charged in Elijah McClain’s Death

DENVER — A Colorado grand jury indicted three police officers and two paramedics in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who had been walking home when he was stopped by the police, put into a chokehold and injected with a powerful anesthetic, the attorney general of Colorado announced on Wednesday.

Attorney General Phil Weiser, who had been named as a special prosecutor in the case, announced the 32-count indictment almost two years to the day after Mr. McClain’s death.

“Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and friends, and for our state,” Mr. Weiser said at a news conference announcing the charges, the culmination of months of investigation, protests and calls for justice by Mr. McClain’s family and friends that were amplified by the nationwide protests after George Floyd’s murder.

“We’re here today because Elijah McClain is not here, and he should be,” Mr. Weiser said.

The five defendants involved in Mr. McClain’s death in Aurora, Colo., just east of Denver, will each face one charge of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide as well as a variety of assault charges.

The three Aurora police officers charged in Mr. McClain’s death are Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired last year. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec of the Aurora Fire Department. The city indicated that the officers and medics still with the department would be suspended without pay.

While it is uncommon for police officers to face criminal charges for on-duty deaths, it is rarer still for firefighters or paramedics to be charged.

The indictment unsealed on Wednesday accuses the paramedics of failing to follow medical protocols before and after they injected Mr. McClain with ketamine. Mr. McClain, 23, was already handcuffed when the medics arrived at the scene, and the indictment says they did not talk to Mr. McClain, check his vital signs or properly monitor him after giving him a powerful drug.

An autopsy report by the Adams County coroner said that the cause of death was “undetermined,” and that it could have been a result of natural causes, a homicide related to the carotid hold or an accident.

Mr. McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said she had been praying for this day. In the two years since her son’s death, she has been fighting for answers and changes to Colorado’s laws by speaking out, giving interviews and testifying before state lawmakers. Anything, she said, to carry on the legacy of a son she raised as a single mother, sometimes barely getting by.

“It was my job to make sure the whole world knew about him and how he was killed unjustly and through no fault of his own,” Ms. McClain said in an interview on Wednesday.

Ms. McClain said she was told about the criminal charges a day before they were announced. At first, she said, the multiple counts of assault and homicide seemed like an abstract number. But the import, she said, has been gradually sinking in.

“He never should’ve been killed,” she said. “Elijah believed in our humanity. He showed more humanity to those that killed him than the ones who were supposed to protect and serve him. He believed in our capacity to love one another.”

The death of Mr. McClain, who was described by friends and family as a gentle person who loved animals and taught himself to play the violin, touched off protests across Denver and a flurry of investigations, lawsuits and demands for policing reforms.

Mr. McClain had been walking home from a convenience store carrying a bag with cans of iced tea at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019, when he was stopped by three Aurora police officers responding to a 911 call about a suspicious person. Mr. McClain, who had been wearing a face mask and listening to music, told the officers he was simply walking home and asked the police to let go of him, according to an independent review of the incident.

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