A former police officer in the western US state of Colorado has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for his role in the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was not suspected of any crime when police roughly restrained him and paramedics injected him with a powerful sedative.
Before the judge handed down the sentence on Friday, McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, condemned Randy Roedema, the only law enforcement official to be found guilty.
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“Randy Roedema stole my son’s life,” she said. “All the belated apologies in the world can’t remove my son’s blood from Randy Roedema’s hands.”
She also called the sentence “a slap on the wrist”.
Roedema was found guilty in October of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. The same jury found fellow police officer Jason Rosenblatt not guilty in a joint trial.
Police confronted McClain, 23, on the night of August 24, 2019, after a bystander called 911 to report that a man was dressed in a winter coat and ski mask on a warm night, and was acting suspiciously as he walked home from a convenience store.
Police laid hands on McClain within seconds of stopping him and put him in a carotid chokehold at least twice. He vomited into his ski mask and repeatedly told officers he could not breathe.
The original autopsy conducted on McClain in 2019 found the cause of death to be “undetermined”. However, a revised autopsy report in 2021 concluded McClain died from “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint”.
In a separate trial, two paramedics were convicted last month of criminally negligent homicide for injecting McClain with an overdose of the sedative ketamine. They are due to be sentenced in March.
Local prosecutors initially declined to file charges and McClain’s killing received little attention. That changed following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police.
After Floyd’s death triggered global protests, Colorado Governor Jared Polis in 2020 asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate McClain’s case. A state grand jury indicted the officers and paramedics in 2021.