Trial against Aurora cops, medics in death of Elijah McClain moved to August

 

The three Aurora police officers and two fire department medics indicted in the killing trial of Elijah McClain. From left to right, former officer Nathan Woodyard, paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper, and former officers Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema.

BRIGHTON | Almost a year after multiple grand jury indictments, the case against three police officers and two paramedics facing felony charges related to Elijah McClain’s 2019 death was pushed back to Aug. 12 for a procedural hearing in an Adams County District Court.

The date was set during an anticlimactic hearing Friday afternoon that took place mostly in closed session.

Explaining her decision to set the date for a “probable cause” hearing four months out, Loew mentioned “the volume of materials” — thousands of pages of grand jury transcripts and documents provided by the attorney general’s office.

“I am getting through them … but for the record, the court still has a full docket,” Loew said. “I’d rather have a little more time to make sure that I’m done.”

The probable cause hearing will determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to move forward, which requires Loew to review all of the grand jury transcripts and exhibits before she can make a decision.

Unlike in other criminal cases, requests for preliminary hearings cannot be made in a case with an indictment. However, each defendant is entitled to ask the judge to review the grand jury’s findings for probable cause.

“State law…allows a court to review a grand jury indictment for probable cause,” Colorado Judicial Department spokesperson Jon Sarché said in an email. “Each of the defendants has asked for a probable cause review.”

The closed door portions of the hearing were related to conflict of interest issues involving counsel Loew was discussing with the defendants.

In August 2019, McClain was detained and placed in a chokehold during an encounter initiated by APD officers Randy Roedema, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard. Paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper injected McClain with what investigators have described as an overdose of the sedative drug ketamine while the 23-year-old was handcuffed and restrained on the ground

McClain went into cardiac arrest and died soon after.

McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, was present in court Friday in person for the hearing.

His death prompted ongoing protests to bring charges against the officers and reform the police department, demands that gained national attention in 2020 following the death of George Floyd and played a critical role in the state and federal investigations of the department announced in August 2020, one of which found that the department had engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination and excessive use of force against people of color.

Woodyard and Roedema are still employed by the department. Rosenblatt was fired after responding to a text message of a photo of several other officers reenacting the chokehold used in McClain’s death.

In 2021, a state grand jury indicted the five first responders for felony manslaughter and criminally-negligent homicide, in addition to lesser crimes. All five are free on bond.

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Publius
Publius
4 months ago

I wonder how frequently, if ever, such hearings result in a determination there is no probable cause to proceed. I imagine it is exceedingly rare.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Publius

It is exceedingly rare. With the result that a lot of lousy cases wind up going to trial that should have been screened out at the preliminary hearing.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

If by those pics they were trying to look like a bunch of thugs, they succeeded.

Don Black
Don Black
3 months ago

As tragic as it is, the death of Elijah McClain was neither racist not criminal. The officers were called about a suspicious person. There is often a degree of subjectivity in contacting someone who is suspicious. If you watch the video, you will see that Elijah immediately fails to stop when told to by the officers and a struggle begins immediately. Elijah knows the he has done nothing wrong. In police work, police officers stop innocent people all the time. This is due to the appearance of wrong doing or poor descriptions given by victims. This is unavoidable. If we do not expect people to cooperate with the police, then we should decriminalize all crimes. Pick a crime you don’t like. If people don’t have to stop or comply with the police, then arrests or investigation of those crimes cannot happen. With the police reform bill, we have basically accomplished making it too dangerous for the police to stop anyone who might not stop or who resists. If you watch the media, you will see that the person who resists is not held accountable. Instead, when their actions result in their death, the police are always accused of killing them for the minor offense for which they were stopped. No, they were not killed for the traffic violation. They were killed because they fought with the police. Now, that is not to justify the police action when it is wrong. But, one must acknowledge that the person involved contributed to their own death by their actions. We have heard that black parents have to give their children a talk about how to act when stopped by the police. Please notice that those people who are being killed or injured did not cooperate and usually ran and fought the police. Many have extensive records.

The next thing to understand is that no one knows why Elijah McClain died. The public is unaware that, for many years, suspects have died suddenly after struggles with the police. In most of these cases, no chokehold or other extreme measure was used by the police. The term that was created to identify this unexplained result was Sudden In Custody Death. These cases carried no clear reason that the medical people could identify as the cause of death. Often there were drugs in the person’s system and/or they had mental problems. Prolonged struggles simply caused them to die. This happened around the country. In Elijah’s case, it is apparent from the video that there was a significant struggle and that at one point, an officer feared that Elijah was trying to get an officer’s gun. From the video conversation, it is also clear that Elijah, perhaps out of fear, exhibited great strength and resisted a bar hammerlock that normally controls a person. A carotid control hold was then used. This is a less dangerous version of what the public would call a choke hold. The paramedics were called immediately when the carotid control hold was used. It is policy meant to protect the person from any possible ill effects of the hold. Elijah was still struggling after being handcuffed. He was being held on his side, which is what is taught to enable the person to breathe and in case they vomit. He was not being tortured as is stated by the report generated by a small group hired by the City. A lawyer does not have the background to assess use of force. The decision was made by the paramedics to inject Elijah with ketamine. This drug, and others, have long been in use to calm down those who continue to struggle after handcuffing. When you deal with someone who is thrashing around after they should have ceased struggling, you have a problem transporting them and keeping them from hurting themselves. In jails, prisoners have been placed on soft mats with football helmets on. Often, they continue to bang their heads against the concrete if this is not done. Sometimes, they are secured in a restraint chair. That takes a number of people to accomplish. Sometimes, they have died as a result of the struggle to put them in the chair.

A review of the arrest and the circumstances of Elijah’s death by both the police department and the Adams County DA’s office resulted in clearing the officers and the fire department of any criminal conduct. The most obvious reason for this is that no intent to harm Elijah was displayed and the cause of his death was unknown. The coroner felt that Elijah’s physical condition could have caused him to die just from mowing the lawn. The actions of the officers at the scene show that they used the procedures that they had been taught to protect Elijah. It is all on video. A shotgun approach where you just charge everyone at the scene with no real idea what caused the death, does not conform to the law. If that were the case, then as an officer I could just charge everyone at the scene of a beating or shooting without regard for who actually did the act. Law be damned. In this case, if all of these people were guilty of killing Elijah, why not charge everyone else at the scene as accomplices for not intervening? If you are going to use a shotgun, why not get everyone?

An emotional response by a grand jury is not a surprise. Law enforcement cannot continue if their actions are going to be judged based upon emotion when the outcome is bad. The police have to deal with facts and they have to believe that they will be judged fairly based upon facts. Otherwise, the job is too dangerous to undertake. Unfortunately, that is where we are. The police reform bill has created new vague guidelines so the police have no idea where they stand on use of force. As for the fire department, they have always been the good guys. They have always been there to try to save people. I have had long experience with the fire department. I do not believe that there was ever any intent to harm Elijah. I also believe that their actions were designed to protect Elijah.

It is unfortunate that Elijah died. He was, by all accounts, a gentle soul who was caught in circumstances that scared him. His reactions caused an escalation of force. It was very fast and there was no real time to talk to Elijah. There must be a concerted effort to teach young people about their responsibility to cooperate and the dangers of not cooperating. As part of that, young people should be taught the avenues to voice their complaints about how they were treated. We have body cams nowadays. As a supervisor, I was always happy when there were witnesses to the interactions between the officers and the complaining person. I did not want bad officers out there mistreating the public. I have worked with enough bad officers to know that they exist. It reflected badly on all of us in law enforcement. As part of that, I always expected my officers to give a person a full explanation of the reason they were stopped and an apology if they were not guilty of some crime. Even when the person was arrested, I encouraged the officers to thank them for their cooperation if the person did not resist arrest.

Let us hope that justice prevails for these officers and fire personnel who were simply trying to do their jobs. As for Elijah, I am sad that he was caught in these circumstances. I am sure that none of the people involved wanted Elijah to die. I feel for Elijah’s family. This is especially true considering the fact that Elijah was a gentle soul and not a criminal. To lose someone like that has to be very painful.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

The police have no right to detain someone unless they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe the person is committing a crime.

There was no reasonable suspicion to detain McClain.

This isn’t even close. The Supreme Court has held the police have the right to seek to engage in conversation with anyone in public. But that person has every right to ignore them. And this is where the cops go wrong, by insisting, demanding that the person answer their questions. If they don’t have reasonable suspicion, that person is under no obligation to engage with them.

Susie
Susie
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

The guy was wearing a ski mask during Summer. That is reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

Gabrielle Huston turner
Gabrielle Huston turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Let you get an overdose shot of the drug the medics gave him and let’s see how u turn out. After you have ruffed up by police with guns and the history of some violent officers??

Last edited 1 month ago by Gabrielle Huston turner
robert maberry
robert maberry
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Black

Delusional person I feel sorry for you. I hope that the next encounter with the aurora police goes better then the innocent young man that was murdered for the entertainment of the officers involved. It’s a respect my authority or die . Situation nothing more

Susie
Susie
3 months ago

Drop all charges.

Gabrielle Huston turner
Gabrielle Huston turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Susie

Watch the old movie called watermelon man with Godfrey Cambridge Susie?

justice
justice
3 months ago

i agree with the governor- “Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern,” Polis said

Last edited 3 months ago by justice
Bob
Bob
3 months ago

Who is this unidentified person Loew?

Jessie
Jessie
1 month ago

Hey Don Black, please explain via your legalese the reasons officers of the law would go to the scene and re-enact then photograph the choke hold? Would love to see some logical lawyerly tap dancing on that one.