Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, spoke out on Instagram Thursday morning, ahead of a jury verdict in a criminal case against two paramedics who injected her son with ketamine in 2019 before he died.
“I have no expectations at all,” she said as she talked live on the social media site while driving to the Adams County court in Colorado, where the trial has been ongoing for nearly one month.
She said she would be camped out at the courthouse while she waits for a jury to decide whether to convict Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper on criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter, and assault charges.
Both paramedics have pleaded not guilty to each charge.
“It would be nice if they found every one of those (expletive) guilty,” she said.
McClain, who cried at various times during her video, said she planned to make another live broadcast when the verdict comes. The only words that make sense to her that come close to how she feels, she said, are cuss words.
“I’m tired of the cameras in my face,” she explained. “I just pray for a better day. The reality is, that day is probably not going to come.”
The two paramedics were working for Aurora Fire Rescue when they made the decision to sedate Elijah McClain, 23, with the powerful sedative in August 2019.
At the time, they told investigators they believed McClain was exhibiting signs and symptoms of “excited delirium,” a controversial term (used to describe someone who is out of their mind or unable to control their body) that has since been rejected by many medical professionals as a legitimate medical diagnosis.
Body-camera footage shows McClain was handcuffed and being held down by police officers when he received a dose of the medication.
“Elijah didn’t have excited delirium. He wasn’t truly out of control,” said Shannon Stevenson, the state's solicitor general, during closing arguments on behalf of the prosecution. “He was responding to the police. He was crying out in pain. He was apologizing.”
Stevenson said the paramedics took no accountability for their actions.
“There is no justification to ignore a lifeless patient for six minutes before you try to take his pulse,” she said of the paramedics’ decisions that day. “The defendants’ recklessness is proved here beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“There’s no evidence that he went without breathing for six minutes,” said defense attorney Michael Pellow, who represents Cooper. “He stopped breathing in the ambulance. It was approximately a minute that he was without oxygen ... I’m not saying that’s good.”
Pellow said his client is not guilty.
“There’s no evidence that either one of these defendants ... intended to hurt Elijah McClain ... they were following their training. They were following their protocols,” he said.
Defense attorney David Goddard, who represents Cichuniec, said the paramedics made a reasonable assessment that McClain was suffering from what looked like excited delirium based on what they observed of the police department’s interactions with him.
“They repeatedly hear commands being given by those officers. ‘Stop fighting. Stop resisting us,’” said Goddard.”
He said Cooper administered the drug, “pursuant to” the Aurora Fire Rescue protocol, trying to “end this struggle that is going on.” In Colorado, paramedics are no longer allowed to use the drug to treat patients whom they consider to be agitated.
Prior to the injection, three Aurora police officers involved McClain in a rough altercation that left him vomiting and handcuffed. One officer applied a carotid hold — a technique that cuts the blood supply to the brain — on McClain.
According to an amended autopsy, McClain died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.
In October of this year, a jury convicted one officer, Randy Roedema, of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault for his role in the incident.
The two other police officers involved were acquitted by juries this fall.
McClain had been walking home from a convenience store in August 2019 — wearing a black ski mask — when someone called 911 to report that he looked “sketchy.”
“He might be a good person or a bad person,” the caller said.
McClain was not committing any crime when police approached him.
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