Arraignment for defendants charged in Elijah McClain's death postponed again

A final arraignment is set for Jan. 20, 2023.

November 4, 2022, 6:27 PM

Arraignment for the police officers and paramedics named in a grand jury indictment alleging their involvement in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado, was postponed by a county court again on Friday. A final arraignment hearing is set for Jan. 20, 2023, over three years after the fatal encounter.

Aurora Police Department officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, former officer Jason Rosenblatt and Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper are charged with a collective total of 32 counts of crime of violence, assault, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Attorneys for the five previously challenged the charges, citing insufficient evidence. The judge rejected those arguments in July.

Attorneys for Cooper, with agreement from the rest of the defense, requested the postponement. The prosecution did not formally object.

"Your Honor, Ms. McClain objects to any further continuances of the arraignment," prosecutors said. "The People are ready to proceed with the arraignment, but The People understand the position of the defendant and the defendant's request."

McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, told ABC News last year that the charges filed were a step in the right direction, but there's still work to be done in getting justice for her son.

"I'm still praying for them to be in prison. My son's murderers and their accomplices all need to be in prison for what they did to him," she told ABC News. "They had no right to stop him. They had no right to handcuff him, brutalize and terrorize him, or inject him with ketamine."

In November 2021, the McClain family reached a $15 million settlement with the city of Aurora in a civil rights lawsuit filed over the manner in which the 23-year-old McClain was arrested and his subsequent death.

Roedema, Woodyard and Rosenblatt approached McClain on Aug. 24, 2019, in response to a 911 dispatch call that reported a ski-mask wearing individual who was "acting strangely," according to a Colorado grand jury indictment. McClain had been walking home from a convenience store at the time, the indictment said.

PHOTO: Elijah McClain in an undated photo.
Elijah McClain in an undated photo.
Family photo

Rosenblatt unsuccessfully attempted a carotid hold -- a chokehold that applies pressure to the throat or windpipe -- before the same hold was executed by Woodyard, resulting in McClain falling unconscious, the indictment said. Roedema also placed McClain in a 'bar hammer lock,' later stating that he heard McClain's shoulder pop three times in the process, according to the indictment.

Officers continued to restrain McClain with handcuffs and by sitting on him, even as he lost and regained consciousness, the indictment said. McClain's utterances that he could not breathe were dismissed by Roedema, according to the indictment.

McClain died six days later on Aug. 30, 2019, at Aurora's University Hospital after being declared brain dead three days earlier, having never regained consciousness after being placed, still handcuffed, inside the ambulance for transport. His cause of death was listed in his original 2019 autopsy report as "undetermined".

Rosenblatt was fired in July 2020 for failing to report photos of officers mocking the chokehold on McClain and for responding "haha" when he was texted the images. The other officers and paramedics have been suspended without pay pending the trial.

In September of this year, the Adams County Coroner's Office released an amended report that determined McClain's death was caused by complications from a 500 mg dose of ketamine administered to him without his consent by paramedics Cichuniec and Cooper once they arrived at the scene.

Responding to a report that alleged numerous mistakes by police officers in the death of Elijah McClain, the Aurora, Colorado, police chief said in February that she welcomed an independent monitor of her department and apologized to McClain's family.

"The bottom line is Elijah McClain should still be here today," Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said during a news conference. "Nothing I can say here today or changes that I’ve made or changes I will continue to make will bring him back and for that, I’m extremely sorry."