Jury selection is underway for the trial of two Colorado police officers charged in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who begged authorities for mercy as they placed him in a chokehold and injected him with ketamine.
Both Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt appeared at Adams County Court for the start of jury selection on Monday, CBS News reported. They will be the first of five first responders — three police officers and two paramedics — to go to trial in connection with McClain’s death. They’re each facing one count of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as other charges contained in a 32-count indictment handed down by a grand jury in 2021.
They have all pleaded not guilty.
McClain died on Aug. 30, 2019, six days after he was stopped by police officers in Aurora. He had been walking home from a convenience store when he was approached by authorities, who were responding to calls of a suspicious person in the area at the time.
McClain — sporting a face covering due to a health condition that caused him to get cold easily — had just purchased an iced tea and told officers he was on his way home before they tackled him to the ground, where he would remain for the next 15 minutes.
On two different occasions, authorities placed McClain in a carotid hold, which reduces blood flow to the brain and can cause blackouts. Then, responding paramedics gave him a sedative that officials eventually determined played a key role in his subsequent death.
McClain was not armed at the time, nor did he commit any crimes.
Rosenblatt was fired in 2020 after texting “ha ha” in response to a picture sent to him by other officers, one of whom appeared to be play-acting a chokehold near a memorial for McClain. Roedema meanwhile has been suspended without pay.
Former Aurora Police officer Nathan Woodyard is slated to go trial next month for his role in the altercation. A trial for former paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec is scheduled for November.
McClain’s death sparked widespread backlash and protests against police brutality. The graphic body footage later released by authorities sparked comparisons to the 2020 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who similarly pleaded for his life amid a confrontation with police before he died.