The announcement comes just over two years since the death of McClain, 23, who had told police, “I can’t breathe,” after they placed him in a chokehold.
Two police officers, one former officer and two paramedics in Aurora, Colorado, will face charges in the death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who was detained, placed in a chokehold and given a powerful sedative in a confrontation with police in 2019. The indictment comes after an eight-month grand jury investigation convened by Colorado’s top prosecutor.
State Attorney General Phil Weiser on Wednesday said the five defendants will be charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as other charges in the 32-count indictment.
The officers named in the indictment are Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt. The paramedics are Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.
McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said he cried tears of joy upon learning of the indictment.
“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” Mosley said in a statement.
The indictments come just over two years since the death of McClain, 23, prompted months of protests by activists that dovetailed into national demonstrations demanding systemic changes in policing galvanized by last year’s police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis.
Like Floyd, McClain had told police, “I can’t breathe” — a phrase that has been a familiar rallying cry against police brutality.
Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said officials “respect the judicial process” and the grand jury’s decision, and that while no criminal or civil investigation will “erase the pain and heartbreak of Elijah’s loss,” the city is committed to restoring the community’s trust.
The officers and paramedics employed by the city have been indefinitely suspended without pay, Twombly added. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.
The Aurora police union said in a statement that “our officers did nothing wrong” and maintains McClain’s death was related to his decision to “violently resist arrest and a pre-existing heart condition.”
“The hysterical overreaction to this case has severely damaged the police department,” the Aurora Police Association’s board of directors said in a statement.
The Aurora Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Criminal charges against police officers accused in a person’s death while on duty are rare, and even more so for paramedics and firefighters, and Weiser hinted at the challenge facing prosecutors.
“Make no mistake, we recognize that this case will be difficult to prosecute,” Weiser said. “These types of cases always are.”
McClain’s encounter with police in Aurora, a Denver suburb, began just after 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019, after he bought iced tea from a corner store. At the time, McClain, a massage therapist, was wearing a ski mask — which he typically did because of a blood condition that made him feel cold, according to his family.
SOURCE ⇒ NBCNEWS
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