Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday that a grand jury has returned a 32-count indictment against three Aurora police officers and two paramedics for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man described as gentle and kind by family and friends.

The indictments filed in Adams County District Court come two years to the week after McClain died after an encounter with officers who forcefully subdued him as he walked home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019, putting him in a type of neck hold intended to cause temporary unconsciousness to gain control over a person.

Paramedics called to the scene injected McClain with 500 milligrams of ketamine, which according to the indictment would have been the dose estimate for someone weighing more than 200 pounds. McClain weighed 143 pounds.

McClain went into cardiac arrest and died a few days later in the hospital, having never regained consciousness.

”It is our department’s solemn duty to prosecute this case. … We are here today because Elijah is not here, and he should be,“ Weiser said at a news conference.

Weiser opened the grand jury investigation in January.

All five officers and paramedics face one count each of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, both felonies. They include officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodward and former officer Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired by the police department last summer. Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec have also been charged.

Roedema, Rosenblatt, Cooper and Cichuniec face a count each of second-degree assault with intent to cause and causing serious bodily injury. Roedema and Rosenblatt each face a count of a crime of violence related to the assault charges.

The paramedics face counts of second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious injury with a deadly weapon, ketamine, and one count of second-degree assault for a purpose other than lawful medical or therapeutic treatment, intentionally causing stupor, unconsciousness or other physical or mental injury to McClain by administering a drug without consent.

Cooper and Cichuniec also face charges of crimes of violence related to the assault.

All five suspects indicted on Wednesday turned themselves in to the Glendale Police Department before posting a $10,000 bond, said Glendale police Cpt. Mike Gross. 

According to Aurora's city charter, any civil service officer indicted on a felony charge is suspended without pay immediately and indefinitely. 

"Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable," said LaWayne Mosley, McClain's father.

McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, thanked Weiser in a statement put out by her attorney. "She is even more thankful to the members of the grand jury — ordinary people who rose to the occasion and have recognized Elijah’s humanity and goodness," said Rathod Mohamedbhai attorney Iris Halpern.

The decision by Dave Young, then the district attorney for Adams and Broomfield Counties, not to prosecute the officers who restrained McClain  dogged the final years of Young's tenure.

In the past he defended the choice, saying, “the prosecution cannot disprove the officers’ reasonable belief in the necessity to use force.”

In January, Young joined the office of the 4th Judicial District Attorney under the newly elected DA, Michael Allen.

In a statement Wednesday, the Aurora Police Association's board of directors reiterated that the police department's chief at the time of McClain's death, Nick Metz, cleared the officers who restrained McClain of wrongdoing. 

"Nothing has changed. Our officers did nothing wrong," says the statement, adding that there is no evidence they caused McClain's death.

Late Wednesday, the Aurora Police Department posted a statement on Twitter stressing that the Aurora Police Association is not the official negotiating unit for officers and does not speak for APD leadership or all the members of the force.

The indictment contradicts the police association's statement. It says a forensic pathologist has given the opinion McClain died due to complications from acute ketamine administration "during violent subdual and restraint by law enforcement and emergency response personnel," and that McClain's death was a homicide.

The officers who stopped McClain had responded to a call about someone acting suspicious, but the caller said they did not believe the person was armed, which McClain was not. McClain was listening to music and wore a face mask, which his family has said he often did to keep warm because of a health condition.

Officers knelt on his back and legs, and Roedema twisted McClain's arm behind his back, according to the indictments.

Footage from the officers' body cameras captured McClain vomiting, apologizing and trying to explain himself as the officers subdued him, saying he was an introvert and repeatedly telling them, "I'm just different."

None of the paramedics or officers checked McClain's vital signs, according to the indictment.

The officers told Cooper and Cichuniec that McClain had "incredible strength," seemed not to respond to pain and was "on something." The paramedics concluded McClain suffered from excited delirium, a condition described as characterized by a sudden onset of distress and aggression in someone.

But neither paramedic talked to nor touched McClain before diagnosing him with excited delirium, the indictment says, and did not ask him if he consented to receiving the ketamine dose.

Excited delirium is a controversial concept. A 2020 Brookings Institution report notes clinical practice does not use the term, nor does the concept have diagnostic criteria — but is used to retroactively explain some deaths in police custody.  

In a statement Wednesday, the Aurora's city and public safety leadership declined to comment specifically on the criminal indictments given that the cases are open. Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement "this tragedy will forever be imprinted on our community."

Fire Rescue Chief Fernando Gray said the Aurora community for more than two years has "demanded answers and continually questioned the circumstances surrounding Elijah's death and we are committed to fully cooperating as the judicial process moves forward."

Although the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office declined to charge the officers involved at the time of McClain's death, Wednesday’s announcement marks the latest development in two years of social, legislative and legal responses to McClain’s death.

Renewed outrage over McClain's death became part of last year's upswell in racial justice movements after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The Aurora Police Department no longer trains or authorizes any kind of chokehold. Last year, Wilson fired two officers who took a photo mocking McClain’s death and sent it to Rosenblatt, one of the officers who stopped McClain. Rosenblatt was also fired for responding, “Ha ha.”

A fourth officer involved with the incident resigned.

In July, Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed a law that bans police from instructing paramedics or other medical professionals to use ketamine, and medical workers also cannot use ketamine on anyone suspected of a crime absent a medical emergency.

Weiser’s office is also doing a separate civil investigation into whether the Aurora Police Department has a pattern of violating its residents’ civil rights. 

Colorado Politics reporters Michael Karlik and Ernest Luning contributed to this report.

Sign Up For Free: Denver AM Update

Your morning rundown of the latest news from overnight and the stories to follow throughout the day.

Success! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.