Four years after McClain’s death, which sparked outrage over racial injustice in American policing, a trial for the officers who killed him is set to begin.
DENVER (AP) — Elijah McClain’s fatal encounter with police began on a summer night in 2019 when a 911 caller reported that the young Black man looked “sketchy” as he walked down the street wearing a ski mask and raising his hands in the air in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
In reality, McClain, who was often cold, was just walking home from a convenience store, listening to music.
But moments later, police stopped him and after struggling with him, put the 23-year-old in a neck hold. Then paramedics gave him a sedative that officials eventually determined played a key role in his death days later. McClain, a massage therapist known for his gentle nature, was unarmed and hadn’t committed any crime.
Four years after his death — which left a gaping hole in his mother’s heart and sparked outrage over racial injustice in American policing — a trial for two of the officers was set to begin Friday with jury selection. Trials for a third officer and two paramedics are scheduled to start later this year.
A jury will decide if officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt are guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent reckless homicide and assault charges in a trial expected to last about a month. They have pleaded not guilty but have never spoken publicly about the allegations against them.
Roedema, a former Marine who is currently suspended without pay, had been with the department for five years before McClain’s death. Rosenblatt had worked for the agency for two years and is the only officer who confronted McClain who was fired — not for the fatal encounter itself, but for making light of other officers’ reenactment of the neck hold.
Their attorneys — Donald Sisson for Roedema and Harvey Steinberg for Rosenblatt — didn’t return requests for comment.
They were indicted in 2021 by a state grand jury after an outcry over McClain’s death following the police killing of George Floyd. McClain’s pleading words captured on body camera, including, “I’m an introvert and I’m different,” drew widespread attention after Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
The grand jury indictment came nearly two years after a local prosecutor decided against prosecuting the officers largely because the coroner’s office could not determine exactly how McClain died. He called McClain’s death “tragic,” but
A revised coroner’s report issued in 2021 said the cause of death was complications from the ketamine but also noted that that occurred after McClain was forcibly restrained. Pathologist Stephen Cina wrote he couldn’t rule out whether the stress of being held down by the officers may have contributed to McClain’s death.
McClain, who weighed 140 pounds (64 kilograms), was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for someone of his size and overdosed, Cina found. McClain was extremely sedated within minutes of being given the ketamine, wrote Cina, who said he believed McClain was gasping for air when he was put on a stretche