Jurors convict Colorado police officer in death of Elijah McClain, acquits a second
BRIGHTON — Jurors on Thursday delivered a split decision in the trial of two Aurora police officers charged in the death of Elijah McClain, convicting one officer but acquitting the other after nearly three weeks of testimony.
The jury found Aurora police officer Randy Roedema, 41, guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault — the two lesser charges he faced.
Jurors acquitted former officer Jason Rosenblatt, 34, on all charges. He put his head in his hands on the defense table after the verdict, then cried as he hugged supporters and his attorneys. He had been charged with reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault.
Roedema sat quietly when the verdict was read and did not comment when he left the courtroom. Some of his supporters wept when they heard the guilty verdict. Criminally negligent homicide is a low-level felony, while third-degree assault is a misdemeanor.
Roedema will return to Adams County District Court to be sentenced, while the case against Rosenblatt is now over.
Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, raised her fist in the air as she left the courtroom after the verdicts.
“This is the divided states of America, and that’s what happens,” she said after she left the courthouse. “I’m out. I’m too pissed to talk.”
McClain was walking home on Aug. 24, 2019, when officers contacted him after a 911 caller had reported McClain as a suspicious person. The 23-year-old was wearing a runner’s mask that night, as he often did because he was frequently cold. Within seconds of reaching McClain, the officers threw him to the ground and violently arrested him. One officer, Nathan Woodyard, used a carotid hold on McClain, squeezing his neck to force him to lose consciousness.
McClain vomited after the carotid hold and inhaled that vomit into his lungs, testimony at trial revealed. He begged the officers for help, repeatedly telling them that he could not breathe, but the officers did not give him any medical aid, instead calling for paramedics.
After McClain was subdued and handcuffed, Aurora paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec injected McClain with a dose of ketamine, and he suffered a heart attack. He never recovered and died in the hospital days later.
Prosecutors sought to prove during the jury trial that McClain would be alive but for the officers’ actions during the violent encounter. Defense attorneys for Rosenblatt and Roedema sought to shift blame elsewhere — to the paramedics for injecting ketamine, to McClain for allegedly resisting the officers, and to politics, claiming the prosecution itself was politically-motivated and flawed.
Local prosecutors initially decided not to charge the police officers in McClain’s death, but the case received renewed attention in 2020, when George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis brought calls for widespread police reform and prompted protests across America. Three officers and two paramedics were indicted in 2021 after an investigation by a special prosecutor.
Roedema, Woodyard, Cooper and Cichuniec have been suspended without pay from their jobs while the criminal cases are pending against them. If they are acquitted of felony charges, they’ll receive back pay and can return to their jobs; if they’re convicted, they’ll be fired, according to the city’s charter. Rosenblatt was fired in 2020 after responding “ha ha” in a text message to a mocking photo three other Aurora police officers took at the site of McClain’s arrest.
Woodyard’s trial is set to begin Friday with jury selection, while Cooper and Cichuniec are scheduled to stand trial next month.
This is a developing story and will be updated.