Sports & General

Closing arguments set for trial of Colorado officers in Elijah McClain’s death

FILE PHOTO: Protesters gather for a rally to call for justice for Elijah McClain in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt/File Photo

By Brad Brooks

LONGMONT, Colorado (Reuters) – Closing arguments are expected on Tuesday in the trial of two Colorado police officers charged in the killing of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who died in 2019 after being roughly restrained and injected with the sedative ketamine.

In the first of three trials in the case, prosecutors have argued that officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt unnecessarily brutalized McClain when they stopped him and that they gave false information to paramedics which contributed to the medical workers administering a large dose of ketamine. Both officers are charged with reckless manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Defense attorneys argued it was the ketamine that killed McClain, and that paramedics were solely responsible.

A revised autopsy report in September 2022 concluded McClain died from “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.”

A bystander had called 911 to report that McClain was acting suspiciously as he walked home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019, in the Denver suburb of Aurora. McClain, dressed in a winter coat and face mask on a warm night, was listening to music using ear buds and dancing slightly as he walked, security videos showed.

Rosenblatt, Roedema and a third Aurora police officer arrived and grabbed McClain 9 seconds after confronting him, according to body camera footage showed by prosecutors. A struggle ensued. The footage does not show McClain grabbing for a gun, but Roedema can be heard yelling that McClain tried to get Rosenblatt’s weapon. Prosecutors say McClain did not grab for a gun.

The officers put McClain in a “carotid” choke hold at least twice and held him down for 15 minutes until the arrival of medics.

The episode initially received little attention, but the case gained more notice following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Floyd’s death sparked international outrage and fueled protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

The joint trial for Roedema and Rosenblatt opened on Sept. 20. Roedema was suspended from the Aurora police pending the outcome of the case, while Rosenblatt was dismissed.

The manslaughter trial for the third officer, Nathan Woodyard, is expected to open on Friday. Two paramedics are expected to face trial next month.

The pathologist who conducted McClain’s autopsy, who was among medical and security expert witnesses called, testified that he could not say with certainty if the police choke hold and restraining of McClain contributed to his death.

Defense attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses. The defendants did not take the stand.


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