In a closely-watched case, one of the two police officers involved in the tragic death of Elijah McClain has been convicted of homicide, while the other has been acquitted. Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, lost his life in 2019 after a confrontation with police that resulted in a chokehold and an overdose of ketamine administered by paramedics.
A 12-person jury rendered their verdict, finding Aurora police officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. As a result, Roedema now faces the prospect of up to three years in prison. In contrast, Officer Jason Rosenblatt was found not guilty.
Originally, both officers were charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and second-degree assault. However, just before deliberations began, the jury was asked to consider a lesser charge for Roedema.
The incident took place on August 24, 2019, when Aurora police officers stopped McClain, who was wearing headphones and a mask. McClain had requested to be left alone and was not accused of any crime at the time. Nevertheless, the situation escalated rapidly, leading to a confrontation where Roedema, Rosenblatt, and Officer Nathan Woodyard wrestled McClain to the ground.
During the altercation, Woodyard applied a chokehold that compressed McClain’s carotid artery, briefly rendering him unconscious. While both the prosecution and defense argued that the administration of ketamine was the primary cause of McClain’s death, Roedema, being the most senior officer at the scene, held McClain’s shoulder and back as the sedative was administered.
Roedema’s defense attorney alleged that McClain had resisted and attempted to reach for an officer’s firearm. However, Officer Alicia Ward, who was not charged in the case, testified that she had her knuckles against the back of McClain’s head and was prepared to apply pressure but deemed it unnecessary as she did not perceive McClain as a threat at that moment.
Following the injection of ketamine, McClain went into cardiac arrest while being transported to the hospital. Three days later, he was pronounced dead. The tragic death of Elijah McClain garnered national attention, becoming a rallying cry for justice, similar to the case of George Floyd.
Officer Nathan Woodyard, the one who applied the neck hold, along with two paramedics, are now facing similar charges as Roedema and Rosenblatt. Woodyard’s trial is set to commence with jury selection starting on Friday, and the paramedics are scheduled for trial later this year.
The sentencing for Randy Roedema is scheduled for January 5, 2024, with Judge Mark Warner presiding over the proceedings. The case remains a stark example of the ongoing scrutiny and calls for reform within law enforcement and the criminal justice system.