Former Aurora Paramedic Sentenced to Probation in Elijah McClain's Death

Former Aurora paramedic sentenced to 4 years probation for role in Elijah McClain's death, marking a rare conviction of first responders in on-duty killings.

Bijay Laxmi
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Former Aurora Paramedic Sentenced to Probation in Elijah McClain's Death

Former Aurora Paramedic Sentenced to Probation in Elijah McClain's Death

Jeremy Cooper, a former Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic, was sentenced on Friday to four years of probation for his role in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man. Cooper was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in December for injecting McClain with a deadly dose of the sedative ketamine after police officers had forcibly restrained him.

The sentencing marks the culmination of a series of trials that resulted in the convictions of Cooper, another paramedic, and one police officer involved in McClain's death. Experts say such convictions would have been unheard of before the nationwide racial justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

McClain was walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019, when he was stopped by Aurora police officers responding to a 911 call about a "suspicious person" wearing a ski mask. Despite McClain not being armed or accused of a crime, the officers forcibly restrained him using a carotid hold that restricts blood to the brain.

When paramedics Cooper and Peter Cichuniec arrived on the scene, they injected McClain with 500 milligrams of ketamine, a powerful sedative. McClain suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance and was declared brain dead three days later. A revised autopsy report released in 2022 listed McClain's cause of death as complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.

During the sentencing hearing, Cooper expressed remorse for his actions, saying he "desperately" wanted to help McClain that night. However, McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, criticized Cooper and said that justice has not yet been served for her son.

Why this matters: The convictions in Elijah McClain's death are seen as a significant development in holding police and paramedics accountable for on-duty killings, which experts say is rare. The case has also prompted reforms in Aurora and Colorado, including limits on the use of ketamine and chokeholds by first responders.

In addition to Cooper's four-year probation sentence, he will serve 14 months in a work release program and complete 100 hours of community service. His supervisor, Peter Cichuniec, was sentenced to five years in prison last month for his role in McClain's death. The three police officers involved in detaining McClain also faced charges, with one being convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault and the other two being acquitted. "The body camera videos of what happened to Elijah are painful to watch," said Judge Mark Warner during Cooper's sentencing. "But I do believe you are a good man who found himself in a very difficult situation."

Key Takeaways

  • Former Aurora paramedic Jeremy Cooper sentenced to 4 years probation
  • Convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Elijah McClain's 2019 death
  • Injected McClain with deadly dose of ketamine after police restraint
  • Convictions in McClain's death seen as rare police accountability
  • Case prompted reforms on ketamine use and chokeholds by first responders