Sunday, April 14, 2024

Person who helps in emergencies found guilty in Elijah McClain’s passing, gets 5-year jail term

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One of the two paramedics found guilty of causing the death of Elijah McClain in 2019 was given the least severe punishment – five years in prison. Peter Cichuniec, convicted of criminal negligence and assault, apologized in court for McClain’s death, expressing genuine regret.

Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died after being detained by the police and injected with ketamine. Cichuniec’s co-defendant, Jeremy Cooper, is awaiting sentencing.

Before the court decision, Cichuniec acknowledged the loss and pain, stating, “I’m very sorry that Elijah is no longer with us.” Elijah’s mother, Sheneen, called the sentence the “bare minimum” and expressed her grief. The criminal trial against the paramedics was unusual, as paramedics usually have legal protection, making it challenging to hold them accountable.

Cichuniec’s family pleaded for leniency in court, highlighting the impact on them. Cichuniec, visibly emotional, requested mercy to provide for his family. The judge recognized the difficult situation but emphasized the gravity of Elijah McClain’s suffering in his last moments.

The incident leading to the charges occurred in 2019 when police confronted McClain, who was simply walking home. The charges against the paramedics arose from the ill-fated arrest and subsequent injection of ketamine.

In a troubling incident caught on a police body camera, officers took down McClain and put him in a hold that stopped blood flow to his brain, causing him to pass out. Paramedics arrived, thinking he weighed 200 pounds and injected him with a high dose of ketamine, even though he only weighed 143 pounds. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and died three days later.

During the trial, paramedics admitted giving too much ketamine due to an inaccurate weight estimate. One paramedic said he didn’t ask McClain about his height or weight because he believed McClain had “excited delirium,” a diagnosis not accepted by major medical groups.

A pathologist who reviewed the body camera footage disagreed with the diagnosis, saying McClain showed signs of lack of oxygen, not excited delirium.

Former officer Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminal negligence and assault, getting 14 months in jail and four years of probation. Officers Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard were cleared of all charges.

During the paramedics’ trial, prosecutors argued they acted recklessly, giving a large ketamine dose without checking vital signs or talking to McClain. The paramedics claimed they thought it was a safe treatment for excited delirium.

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