Elijah McClain case: Judge sets 3 trials for Aurora police, paramedics

The trials for five Aurora police officers and paramedics charged in connection with Elijah McClain’s death will be split up into three separate proceedings, an Adams County District Court judge ruled this week.

A state grand jury convened by Colorado’s attorney general in September 2021 indicted Aurora police officers Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, former officer Jason Rosenblatt and paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec on 32 combined counts related to McClain’s violent arrest and death in August 2019.

While the five defendants were indicted under one proceeding, “the factual circumstances do not neatly follow a typical codefendant criminal matter,” Judge Mark Douglas Warner wrote in Wednesday’s order.

Woodyard — who put McClain in the chokehold that caused the 23-year-old to lose consciousness — will be tried alone, Warner ruled. Rosenblatt and Roedema, who assisted in restraining McClain, will be tried together in a separate proceeding.

And Cooper and Cichuniec, who injected McClain with the sedative ketamine, will face their own trial.

All five face charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, among the other counts.

An Adams County judge in July found probable cause for the cases against the officers and paramedics to proceed.

McClain’s death became a national rallying cry for protests against police brutality, and his case prompted Colorado lawmakers to make several major changes to state law surrounding the administration of ketamine and police use of force.

The death prompted investigations at the local, state and federal level — including a consent decree levied by Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office against the Aurora Police Department.

In September, the Adams County Coroner’s Office changed McClain’s cause of death from “undetermined” to say he died of ketamine toxicity. Paramedics gave McClain a too-lage dose of the sedative for his weight, forensic pathology consultant Stephen Cina wrote in the amended autopsy report.

“I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” Cina wrote.

The manner of McClain’s death remains undetermined. Possible rulings can include homicide, accidental or natural.

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