Former police officer convicted in Elijah McClain's death sentenced to 14 months

ByKiara Alfonseca and Tesfaye Negussie ABCNews logo
Saturday, January 6, 2024

Randy Roedema, a former Aurora, Colorado, police officer, has been sentenced to over one year in the county jail after being convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree in the August 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.

He received a 14-month sentence for the crime of assault in the third degree, with authorized work release. For the criminally negligent homicide, he'll serve 90 days of jail time concurrently with the assault sentencing.

"The court was shocked by what appeared to be, really, indifference to Elijah McClain's suffering after he was clearly in custody and in handcuffs," Judge Mark Warner said during sentencing. "I think it's important for folks to be aware, criminally negligent homicide is not considered a violent crime. And despite what folks' opinions or my opinion might be about whether this was violent or not [that] doesn't control [the law]."

According to Warner, Roedema will also be on probation for 4 years. He must also serve 200 hours of community service.

A jury found Roedema guilty on Oct. 13 in the first trial concerning McClain's death. Roedema had pleaded not guilty.

Sheneen McClain, Elijah McClain's mother, called for the maximum sentence possible: "Our communities cannot know peace until we see the Justice Department's hold their own enforcers accountable,"

"Elijah McLean had no criminal activity or record at the time of his murder on August 24, 2019. Elijah was a young adult who had his whole life ahead of him," said Sheneed McClain, she added, "My son will never be a dad, an uncle or a grandfather. Randy Roedema has stolen my son's life. All the belated apologies in the world cannot remove my son's blood from Randy's hands."

Roedema spoke, asking for the minimum sentence.

"I know that I would be devastated if I lost any of my children. And I hate that the McClain family has to go through this," said Roedema. "At the same time, I do not think there is anything that I can say that will make this okay."

He continued, "Respectfully, I'm requesting the minimum sentence based on the fact that I do not have any criminal history. I have always had satisfactory or above-satisfactory remarks on my annual reviews. In addition, since I have been relieved of my duty as a police officer, I have secured employment elsewhere. I have taken steps to grow and do better by receiving consistent counseling from both a private firm and my community support group at church."

For criminally negligent homicide, a class 5 felony, and assault in the third degree, a class 1 misdemeanor, Roedema faced several years in prison.

Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, who was simultaneously tried was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter, assault in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide. The first officer on the scene, Nathan Woodyard, was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Two paramedics connected to McClain's death were separately convicted of criminally negligent homicide in McClain's death on Dec. 23.

Paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper were accused of administering an excessive amount of ketamine to sedate McClain after his encounter with police.

Cichuniec was also found guilty of assault in the second-degree unlawful administration of drugs. Cooper was found not guilty of assault in the second-degree unlawful administration of drugs.

They were both acquitted of assault in the second degree with intent to cause bodily injury. They had both pleaded not guilty to their charges.

In a statement following the convictions of Cichuniec and Cooper, Elijah's mother Sheenen McClain said that three convictions out of five "isn't justice and that the only thing the convictions serve is a very small acknowledgment for accountability in the justice system."

The deadly incident

In August 24, 2019, McClain was confronted by police while walking home from a convenience store after a 911 caller told authorities they had seen someone "sketchy" in the area.

McClain was unarmed and wearing a ski mask at the time. His family says he had anemia, a blood condition that can make people feel cold more easily.

When officers arrived on the scene, they told McClain they had a right to stop him because he was "being suspicious."

In police body camera footage, McClain can be heard telling police he was going home, and that "I have a right to go where I am going."

Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid hold and he, Roedema and Rosenblatt moved McClain by force to the grass and continued to restrain him.

During the altercation, Roedema "bodyslammed" McClain, dug his knee into McClain's back and ignored McClain's pleas for help and inability to breathe, according to the prosecution.

McClain told officers during their encounter that he was having trouble breathing. McClain was choking on his vomit while restrained, prosecutor Jonathan Bunge stated in the trial.

When EMTs arrived at the scene, McClain was given a shot of 500 milligrams of ketamine for "rapid tranquilization in order to minimize time struggling," according to department policy, and was loaded into an ambulance where he had a heart attack, according to investigators.

McClain weighed 143 pounds, but was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for someone his size and overdosed, according to Adams County coroner's office pathologist Stephen Cina in his testimony.

McClain's cause of death, which was previously listed as "undetermined," was listed in an amended autopsy report as "complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint." The manner of death remained listed as "undetermined" as it was in the initial report.

He died on Aug. 30, 2019, three days after doctors pronounced him brain dead and he was removed from life support, officials said.

The prosecution in Roedema's case argued that the officers violated department protocol by using excessive force against McClain. Bunge argued that the two men failed to de-escalate the situation. The defense argued they were following department protocols.

"When Elijah is on the ground handcuffed, he's saying over and over and over again, 'I can't breathe. Please help me,'" said Bunge during opening arguments.

The defense said that the officers followed their department policies and training, instead blaming McClain's death on the EMTs who later arrived at the scene and gave McClain a shot of ketamine. A defense attorney for Cooper, the EMT, argued there is a lack of protocol for the situation these paramedics found themselves in.

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