Paramedics Found Guilty in Elijah McClain’s 2019 Death

Denver, Colorado – December 24, 2023

Paramedics Found Guilty in Elijah McClain's death

In Colorado, “Jeremy Cooper,” 49, and “Peter Cichuniec,” 51, both paramedics, have been found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the tragic 2019 death of “Elijah McClain.” McClain, a “23-year-old Black man,” lost his life in a police altercation where he was subjected to a chokehold, followed by the administration of a potent sedative by the paramedics.

The jury rendered its verdict on Friday, also convicting Cichuniec of second-degree assault for administering an excessive dose of the sedative ketamine. This landmark decision is the first among recent criminal prosecutions involving medical first responders to go to trial, potentially establishing a precedent for future cases.

“Elijah McClain’s” death sparked public outrage, leading to trials against police officers and paramedics involved. Following the initial trial, one police officer was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, and another was cleared of charges. In the subsequent trial, a third officer was also acquitted.

Outside the courtroom, “Sheneen McClain,” “Elijah’s” mother, tearfully expressed her feelings, while supporter “MiDian Holmes” addressed reporters, emphasizing that true justice would only be achieved through appropriate sentencing. Holmes stated, “We do not know justice until we see sentencing. We are still seeking justice.”

“Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser” reflected this sentiment, emphasizing that accountability does not end with the convictions. He emphasized the continual requirement for comprehensive initiatives to avoid the unfortunate loss of innocent lives caused by law enforcement and other initial responders. Weiser affirmed, “Elijah did nothing wrong. His life mattered. He should be with us here today.”

During the trial, “Cooper” and “Cichuniec” argued that the administration of ketamine was necessary to calm “McClain,” alleging that police interference hindered their ability to provide prompt treatment. However, prosecutors argued that the paramedics breached their training protocols by failing to conduct an examination of “McClain” before administering the maximum permissible dose of ketamine.

Prosecutor “Jason Slothouber” highlighted this point in closing arguments, stating, “These defendants didn’t even try. When ‘Elijah McClain’ pleaded ‘Please help me,’ they left him there, they overdosed him on ketamine… they killed him.”

The tragic incident unfolded on August 24, 2019, when police confronted “McClain” following a 911 call about a suspicious person. The ensuing altercation involved a carotid chokehold, prompting “McClain’s” pleas of breathlessness. Initially deemed “undetermined” in the 2019 autopsy, the cause of death was later attributed to “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint” in a revised report in 2021.

Initially, local prosecutors refrained from filing charges, but after the global outcry over “George Floyd’s” killing in May 2020, “Colorado Governor Jared Polis” requested the “state attorney general’s office” to investigate “McClain’s” case. This led to a grand jury indictment in 2021 against the officers and paramedics involved.

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