Jury selection is wrapping up in the trial for two officers charged in connection to the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain as prosecutors prepare to present opening statements.
According to AP, lawyers on both sides are expected to lay out very contrasting accounts of what happened the night Elijah McClain lost his life.
This is the first of several trials stemming from the death of McClain.
One question jurors could be asked to decide is whether it was lawful for officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt to detain and use force against McClain, who a 911 caller had reported as being suspicious. . If prosecutors can convince jurors the stop was unjustified, that would undermine any argument that McClain’s injuries were a result of the officers just doing their jobs.
Elijah McClain was killed in 2019 by Denver police after he was stopped, harassed, then restrained and injected with ketamine. His death regained the attention of the world after George Floyd was killed in 2020 by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. After Floyd’s death, millions of people called for Colorado officials to reopen the investigation into the death of Elijah McClain.
In 2021, a Colorado grand jury ultimately indicted five police officers and paramedics on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide as well as other charges.
Aurora police officer Randy Roedema and former officer Jason Rosenblatt are the first defendants to stand trial. Both men pleaded not guilty to charges in January and according to a spokesperson for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, their trial is scheduled to last until Oct. 17. Roedema is currently suspended without pay while Rosenblatt was fired for making light of a photo reenacting a neckhold similar to the one used on Elijah McClain.
Here is everything we know about the case leading up to the trial:
August 2019 – The Death Of Elijah McClain
On Aug. 24, 2019, Elijah McClain was on his way home from a gas station where he bought four cans of Brisk tea when he encountered officers. They stopped him after receiving calls of a “suspicious man.”
Soon, the situation escalated and they put McClain, a Denver native and massage therapist in Aurora, in a chokehold and forced him to the ground for 15 minutes. He eventually started vomiting and complaining that he couldn’t breathe.
“There was a physical struggle,” former APD Chief Nick Metz said back in October. “When (police) saw (McClain), they told him to stop. He wouldn’t stop. Again, he was wearing a ski mask, it’s 10:30 p.m. at night in a residential area, so obviously that creates some concern.”
However, according to Elijah’s family, he was anemic and he favored wearing a ski mask to keep his face warm while he was walking.
In November 2019, a judge ruled that criminal charges wouldn’t be pressed against the cops involved in the arrest of McClain because there wasn’t any indisputable evidence that an officer used “unjustified” force.
May 2020 – The Death Of George Floyd
George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, was the catalyst for renewed calls for justice in the death of Elijah McClain. After Floyd’s death, activists demanded policy changes throughout the country including banning the chokehold.
February 2021 – Independent Investigation Finds Cops Had No Legal Basis For Stop
An independent probe launched in February 2021, found that police and paramedics made crucial errors, leading to the 23-year-old’s demise. The report released stated that Aurora, Colorado, police officers involved in the fatal August 2019 confrontation did not have a legal basis to stop him, frisk him or physically restrain him.
“At the time of the (ketamine) injection, Mr. McClain had not moved or made any sounds for about one minute,” a section of the 157-page report states, according to CNN. “In addition, EMS administered a ketamine dosage based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s size.”
McClain who stood at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds was administered enough ketamine for a man weighing 190 pounds, according to the panel’s findings.
The investigation also claims that officers never “articulated a crime that they thought Mr. McClain had committed, was committing or was about to commit,” and that their intervention set up “ramifications for the rest of the encounter.”
September 2021 – Cops, Paramedics Charged In Black Man’s ‘Murder’
Two years after the death of Elijah McClain the Colorado police officers and paramedics involved in his death were indicted by a grand jury.
The manslaughter indictments in Elijah McClain’s death — which advocates have called “murder” — came more than one year after the Aurora City Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution calling for an independent investigation following allegations of misconduct by officers with the Aurora Police Department and the responding paramedics.
A total of five people were charged — two police officers, one former police officer and two paramedics — each with one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the death that was preceded by McClain telling police that he couldn’t breathe because of the chokehold in which he was placed.
A total of 32 counts were handed down by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who was appointed a special prosecutor in the case. McClain’s father told NBC News he was “thankful” that McClain’s killers will finally be held accountable.”
November 2021 – Aurora, Colorado Pays Elijah McClain’s Family $15 Million Settlement
In November 2021, over two years after the death of Elijah McClain, the city of Aurora has settled with his family. In the settlement, they received $15 million, which was considered the largest such settlement in Aurora’s history.
September 2022 – Elijah McClain’s Amended Autopsy Affirms Violent Arrest Caused His Death
On Sept. 24, 2022, Colorado Public Radio reported the autopsy report was changed to death by ketamine. The amended autopsy was released over a year after officials ordered its update.
As amended, the autopsy confirmed that Elijah died due to “acute Ketamine administration during violent subdual and restraint by law enforcement and emergency response personnel.”
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