Paramedic jailed over man’s sedative death during arrest

Connie Queline

Paramedic jailed over man’s sedative death during arrest

CBS / Mari Newman

A paramedic who injected Elijah McClain with a fatal overdose of a sedative after police put him in a chokehold has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper were found guilty in December of criminally negligent homicide.

Peter Cichuniec was sentenced on Friday, and Cooper will learn his punishment at a hearing in April.

The 2019 killing of the 23-year-old black man initially received little attention from the public.

But it faced fresh scrutiny a year later after George Floyd’s death in Minnesota sparked nationwide racial justice protests against police brutality.

Cichuniec, 51, was also convicted of second-degree assault for making the decision to inject McClain with ketamine, a powerful sedative.

McClain, a massage therapist, had been walking home from a convenience store when he was stopped by three police officers from the Denver suburb of Aurora responding to a call about a “sketchy” person in the area.

Paramedics Jeremy Cooper, left, and Peter Cichuniec, right, at an arraignment in the Adams County district court at the Adams County Justice Center January 20, 2023.

The Denver Post via Getty Images

He was placed in a chokehold during the confrontation that followed. Bodycam footage of the incident showed him repeatedly telling officers: “I can’t breathe.”

Prosecutors said the paramedics failed to conduct basic medical checks on McClain before injecting him with the maximum dose of ketamine. He never regained consciousness and died after being removed from life support three days later.

They had also left him lying on the ground, making it difficult to breathe, and had failed to monitor his condition.

Cichuniec was accompanied in court by his wife and family on Friday, according to Colorado Public Radio.

“There are many, many tragedies in my career, but there are people I wish I could say they are OK, but I can’t,” he tearfully told the judge.

“We are not God. I am not God. And we can’t always have a positive outcome. We can’t save everyone … Elijah will always be on my mind, along with all the others,” he continued, according to CPR.

Two officers involved in the incident, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, were acquitted of charges in November and October, respectively.

A third officer, Randy Roedema, was found guilty in October of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. Prosecutors in that case argued that his statement that McClain was “definitely on something” had contributed to the paramedics’ decision to inject him with ketamine.

Roedema was sentenced in January to 14 months in prison.

The city of Aurora in 2021 agreed to pay $15m (£12m) to settle a lawsuit brought by McClain’s parents.

Related Topics

  • Colorado
  • Police brutality
  • United States


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