US paramedics guilty for overdosing Black man with ketamine – DW – 12/23/2023

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Two Colorado paramedics were convicted on Friday after being found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for their role in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.

The 23-year-old Black man had died after police detained him roughly, put him in a choke hold and the medics injected him with the sedative ketamine.

McClain’s death in August 2019, was one of several cases of Black people dying in custody or at the hands of US police  contributing to racially charged tensions which eventually erupted after George Floyd was choked to death by a group of police officers in May 2020.

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On Friday, a Colorado jury found Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec guilty for giving McClain a fatal ketamine overdose.

Cichuniec was also found guilty on one of two second-degree assault charges following a weeks-long trial. Cooper was found not guilty on the charges of assault. 

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Judge Mark Warner ordered that Cichuniec be taken into custody immediately, as Cooper remained free on bond. The sentencing has been scheduled for March 1.

Police officer guilty, two cleared

McClain’s mother, Sheneen, raised her fist in the air as she left the courtroom.

“We did it! We did it! We did it!” she said.

MiDian Holmes, a supporter of the McClain family, soke to the media on Sheneen’s behalf.

“We do not know justice until we see sentencing,” Holmes said.

“So Judge Warner you now have a responsibility. We are still seeking justice.”

McClain died in August 2019 after police in the city of Aurora responded to a call about a “suspicious” Black male “acting weird” in the street and wearing a ski mask.

An officer said McClain, who was unarmed, had reached for another officer’s gun. No evidence was produced to support this claim.

McClain’s family told the press that he had been out buying iced tea, and would often wear the mask to stay warm because he had anemia.

In October, a jury found a white police officer guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the case, while two other officers were cleared.

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McClain’s case was was the first among a flurry of recent criminal prosecutions against medical first responders to reach trial,

Experts say that  the verdict could have a chilling effect on first responders across the country.

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dvv/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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