Former officer convicted of Elijah McClain’s death gets 14 months sentence


A Colorado police officer guilty of killing Elijah McClain, a young Black man going home from a store, is set to find out on Friday whether he will face prison or probation.

McClain’s mother may also speak during the sentencing hearing.

Randy Roedema, the most senior officer who initially attended the scene of McClain’s murder, was the only one convicted guilty of the three officers charged in his death in 2019. In October, a jury found the former Aurora police guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

McClain’s death garnered little notice at the time of his death, but it resurfaced the following year when large protests swept the country following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. McClain’s killing became a rallying cry for those who oppose racial injustice in law enforcement.

In a separate trial, two paramedics were recently convicted of administering an overdose of the anesthetic ketamine to McClain, 23, after police placed him in a neck hold. The paramedics will be sentenced later this year after being instructed to use ketamine to treat “excited delirium,” a controversial diagnosis that critics believe is unscientific, steeped in racism, and used to justify harsh force.

Police stopped McClain after a 911 caller claimed that he appeared suspicious. Within seconds, another officer had his hands on McClain, commencing a struggle and restraint that lasted approximately 20 minutes before paramedics administered the ketamine. Experts believe the sedative killed McClain because he was already weak from straining to breathe while being pinned down after inhaling vomit into his lungs.

Former officer convicted of Elijah McClain's death gets 14 months sentence

Criminally negligent homicide, defined as killing someone while failing to identify a significant risk to their life, warrants a sentence of probation to three years in jail, according to Roedema. The assault conviction carries a sentence of probation of up to two years in prison.

Former district attorney George Brauchler stated that Judge Mark Warner, a former prosecutor who has been a judge for nearly 20 years, will have to assess a fair punishment by comparing this homicide case to others he has seen in his career. A first conviction can result in probation, but the judge must also consider that Roedema was a uniformed police officer with unique authority and respect from society, and a jury convicted him of homicide, according to Brauchler.

“I don’t know how that person gets to go home that night” on probation, said Brauchler, the prosecutor in the Aurora theater massacre case in 2012. “I think that would be very tough.”

Even if Warner decides to put Roedema on probation, he may order him to serve up to 90 days in jail as part of the sentence, according to Brauchler.

Roedema’s sentences for the assault and killing are likely to be served concurrently, rather than consecutively for a longer sentence, because they entail the same actions. If Roedema is imprisoned, he will be available for parole in a year and will most likely be sent to a halfway home before then, according to Brauchler.

Roedema assisted in keeping McClain still while paramedics delivered the ketamine. He was frequently visible in the body camera film provided to jurors and could be heard instructing others on how to control him.

Former officer convicted of Elijah McClain's death gets 14 months sentence

The same jury that convicted Roedema acquitted former officer Jason Rosenblatt, whose lawyers emphasized that he was not in the same room as McClain when the ketamine was administered.

A few weeks later, a second jury acquitted Officer Nathan Woodyard after he testified that he put McClain in a neck hold, briefly knocking him unconscious. Woodyard said that he was afraid for his life when Roedema claimed McClain snatched one of their pistols. Prosecutors claim the gun grab never occurred.

Last month, Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were convicted. The senior officer, Cichuniec, was found guilty of the most serious charge brought against any of the first responders: felony second-degree assault. It entails a mandatory prison sentence of five to sixteen years.

Sheneen McClain, McClain’s mother, said in a statement following the final verdicts that having three of the five defendants convicted was not justice, but rather “a very small acknowledgment of accountability in the justice system.”

“At least 20 people were present the night my son was alive and talking before he was brutally murdered.” “The Aurora Colorado Police Department and Fire Department kept everyone else on their payroll because both departments lack humanity and refuse to admit their inhumane protocols,” she explained.

The verdicts for the paramedics came a day after a jury in Washington state absolved three police officers of all criminal charges in the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was stunned with a stun gun, assaulted, and confined face-down as he gasped for breath in 2020.

Candace McCoy, professor emerita at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, does not believe the recent acquittals in New York or Colorado signal a slowing of the fight for police reform. Instead, she said it reflects how difficult it is to convict police officers of crimes since juries tend to give them the benefit of the doubt because of how they act in emergencies.

While prosecuting lawsuits against law enforcement was uncommon in the past, she believes that the fact that more are being sought currently is insufficient to create policy change.

“The way to change and reform the police is to change the culture and the departments, and individual prosecutions will not do that,” he said.

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