Colorado Paramedic Sentenced to 14 Months for Role in Elijah McClain's Death

Paramedic sentenced for role in Elijah McClain's death, highlighting scrutiny on police custody deaths and use of sedatives by first responders.

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Ebenezer Mensah
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Colorado Paramedic Sentenced to 14 Months for Role in Elijah McClain's Death

Colorado Paramedic Sentenced to 14 Months for Role in Elijah McClain's Death

Jeremy Cooper, a former paramedic in Aurora, Colorado, was sentenced on Thursday to 14 months in jail with work release and probation for his role in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man. Cooper had been found guilty of criminally negligent homicide last December for injecting McClain with an excessive dose of ketamine, an anesthetic used for sedation, after police had forcibly restrained him.

The sentencing caps a series of trials that resulted in the convictions of a police officer and another paramedic involved in the incident. In August 2019, McClain was walking home from a convenience store when he was stopped by police responding to a 911 call about a "suspicious person." Officers put McClain in a chokehold and pinned him to the ground for 15 minutes. Paramedics, including Cooper, then injected him with a fatal dose of ketamine.

McClain suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was declared brain dead three days later. The revised autopsy report listed McClain's cause of death as complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.

Why this matters: The case has drawn national attention and scrutiny over the use of ketamine by paramedics and the treatment of Black individuals by law enforcement. The convictions of the paramedics and police officers involved in McClain's death were considered rare and unheard of before the 2020 racial justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

During the sentencing hearing, McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, expressed her disappointment with the outcome. "America will never be what it could be because it does not look at all of its citizens as one race, the human race," she said. Sheneen McClain walked out of the courtroom when Cooper addressed her late son, but later returned to give her own statement, blaming everyone present that night for her son's death, not just those who were convicted.

Cooper expressed remorse and said he wished he had known more at the time to help McClain, but the prosecutor argued that he was singularly responsible for McClain's death due to the overdose of ketamine. The judge rejected claims by prosecutors that Cooper had acted with indifference, stating that the evidence showed he did not purposely give McClain an overdose. Cooper was sentenced to a shorter term than the other paramedic involved in the case, who received a 5-year prison sentence.

The convictions in the Elijah McClain case highlight the growing scrutiny on police custody deaths and the use of sedatives by first responders. Colorado has since placed new restrictions on the use of ketamine by paramedics in the wake of McClain's death. The Colorado health department has advised paramedics not to use ketamine on people suspected of having "excited delirium," a controversial diagnosis that has been criticized as unscientific and potentially rooted in racial bias.

Key Takeaways

  • Former paramedic Jeremy Cooper sentenced to 14 months for Elijah McClain's death
  • Cooper found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for injecting McClain with ketamine overdose
  • McClain's death sparked scrutiny over use of ketamine by paramedics and police treatment of Black individuals
  • Colorado placed new restrictions on ketamine use by paramedics after McClain's death
  • Convictions of paramedics and police officers in McClain's case were considered rare before 2020 protests