Jury delivers split decision in trial of two officers accused in death of Elijah McClain

Oct. 12 (UPI) — A jury in Colorado delivered a split verdict Thursday in the trial of two former Aurora police officers charged in the 2019 police-involved killing of Elijah McClain, convicting one officer and acquitting the other.

The jury found former officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and assault, while acquitting the other former officer, Jason Rosenblatt, who faced the same charges.

The two were tried together.

“Today’s verdict is about accountability; everyone is accountable and equal under the law,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement.

“And hopefully today’s verdict is another step in the healing process for the Aurora community and the state. I recognize that some people may not agree with the verdict, but we all must respect the jury system, which is a pillar of our democratic republic.”

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died Aug. 30, 2019, after he was taken off life support at the hospital where he resided following a violent confrontation with police about a week earlier.

McClain was confronted by police on Aug. 24. He was walking down the street in Aurora while wearing a ski mask, which his family has said he often did due to anemia.

After initially refusing to stop, officers tackled the unarmed man to the ground where he was pinned with the use of a carotid control hold.

From the ground and under the officers, McClain vomited multiple times and pleaded with the police to stop, that he could not breathe.

Paramedics who arrived on the scene injected McClain with ketamine, a heavy sedative, and he entered cardiac arrest as he was being transported to the hospital. He was declared brain dead on Aug. 27.

In November of that year, the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges, but in June 2020, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Weiser as special prosecutor to investigate McClain’s death.

A month later, the three officers were fired in connection to what the Aurora Police Department described as “inappropriate photos” taken at the memorial site for McClain.

And in September 2021, the governor announced a 32-count indictment against Roedema and Rosenblatt as well as a third police officer, Nathan Woodyard, and two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

Trials for Woodyard, Cooper and Cichuniec are set to begin later this year.

“I’m deeply grateful for our team’s hard work and dedication on this case,” Weiser said. “We have two more trials to prosecute, and I know the teams handling those cases will bring their best efforts as well.”

Aurora Police Chief Art Acevedo similarly issued a statement calling on members of the public to respect the judicial system.

“I know many have been waiting a long time for the involved parties to have their day in court. As a nation, we must be committed to the rule of law. As such, we hold the American judicial process in high regard,” he said in a statement published to X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter.

“We respect the verdict handed down by the jury, and thank the members of the jury for their thoughtful deliberation and service. Due to the additional pending trials, the Aurora Police Department is precluded from further comment at this time.”

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