Law Enforcement

Elijah McClain Grand Jury: 32 Counts Against Cops, Ex-Cop, Paramedics

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during the September 1 announcement of indictments in Elijah McClain's death.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during the September 1 announcement of indictments in Elijah McClain's death.
Monday, August 30, marked two years since the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after a violent encounter with members of the Aurora Police Department six days earlier, on August 24, 2019.

Over a year ago, Governor Jared Polis had tasked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser with investigating the case after a previous inquiry cleared the individuals involved. In January, Weiser announced that he had empaneled a grand jury as part of the process — a move that attorney Mari Newman, who represents McClain's father, Lawayne Mosley, feared could result in a wrist slap.

That's not the way it worked out. During a September 1 announcement, Weiser revealed that the grand jury had issued a 32-count indictment against five individuals: Aurora Police officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, former Aurora Police Officer Jason Rosenblatt (who was fired after he texted "Haha" in regard to a reenactment photo of the McClain incident), and Aurora Fire and Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec.

The charges include manslaughter allegations against all five individuals — and that's just the start of the legal difficulties they will face.

Weiser began his remarks by noting that his team chose to launch its own investigation rather than simply interpret the one conducted by the 17th Judicial District DA's office that determined back in November 2019 that no criminal charges were justified. Pandemic restrictions had prevented the grand jury from getting to work quickly, Weiser said; after starting late last year, the panel's work had finally concluded on August 26. Weiser attributed one final delay to the need to contact McClain's family members, including his mother, Sheneen McClain, in addition to the accused.

After sharing that, Weiser shared the grand jury's findings: Beyond the manslaughter counts, Roedema and Woodyard will also face charges of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, second-degree assault that caused serious bodily injury, and a crime of violence related to the second-degree assault.

As for Cooper and Cichuniec, they'll also be charged with second-degree assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury, causing serious bodily injury, and second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon — the drug ketamine, with which McClain was injected despite not giving consent. The two are also charged with another count of second-degree assault related to ketamine — giving McClain the drug "for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment" and "intentionally causing stupor, unconsciousness or other physical impairment."

The case is being filed in Adams County District Court, and Weiser promised that the indictment will be unsealed.

"Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family, for his friends, and for the community," Weiser said, "and in so doing, we advance the rule of law and the commitment that everyone is accountable and equal under the law."

He added that his office's investigation into whether the City of Aurora, the Aurora Police Department and the Aurora Fire Department have a pattern and practice of civil rights violations against people of color is ongoing. "By working to build trust in law enforcement," Weiser maintained, "we're working to elevate what safe and effective policing looks like. We will advance public safety and serve all Coloradans fairly and responsibly."

Mosley offered the following statement about the charges: "Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable."

Attorney Newman added: "For far too long, racist and brutal police across this country have acted as though the law does not apply to them. This indictment serves as a powerful reminder to all members of law enforcement that no one is above the law."