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Elijah McClain case: Basic firefighter EMTs testify to paramedic Cooper and Cichuniec's actions after arrest

Posted: 1:23 PM, Dec 04, 2023
Updated: 2023-12-04 19:23:56-05
Elijah McClain

Two paramedics are at the center of the third and final trial in the case of Elijah McClain's 2019 death, and both defendants face charges of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault, plus sentence enhancers.

McClain, 23, was stopped by officers with the Aurora Police Department (APD) on Aug. 24, 2019 and following a violent encounter, died a few days later.

Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper are accused of injecting a significant amount of ketamine into McClain. Medical experts have previously testified that he was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for somebody of his size. In previous trials, prosecutors said the carotid hold, which was applied by police before paramedics arrived, played a key role in his death, while defense attorneys argued that the cause of death was only the ketamine, and McClain would have survived the police encounter without the injection. The ketamine led to cardiac arrest. McClain was declared brain dead and died Aug. 30, 2019.

Trial for Elijah McClain could affect all health care workers

Previously, a jury found APD Officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault, and former APD Officer Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired by the department less than a year after McClain's death, was acquitted of all charges. In the second trial, defendant APD Officer Nathan Woodyard was also found not guilty.

The trial for Cichuniec and Cooper is expected to last about a month.

Scroll down to read updates from the Dec. 4 proceedings.

Monday, Dec. 4

On day four of the trial, Daniel de Jesus, a firefighter with Aurora Fire Rescue, was called to the stand again for the prosecution to finish questioning him and do a redirect examination after the defense cross examined the witness.

At the time of McClain's arrest in 2019, de Jesus was a basic EMT firefighter who arrived on scene prior to the paramedics.

During cross examination, the defense asked de Jesus if he saw Cooper and Cichuniec "do anything but try to provide medical treatment to McClain" when they arrived on scene. To which, de Jesus answered, "no."

Defense attorney Shana Beggan, who represents Cooper, questioned de Jesus about the chain of command on a scene like the arrest of McClain.

De Jesus said there's not a lot a basic EMT firefighter can do when police are still in control of the situation.

The defense put a finer point on the line of questioning by asking if de Jesus and his team carried guns or handcuff keys. He said they do not carry any tools to supersede the police authority on scene.

Beggan asked de Jesus, "do you feel you were doing everything you could to help McCLain? Do you feel your team was." He said "yes" to both questions.

Defense attorney Michael Lowe, who represents Cichuniec, drilled down on why Aurora Fire Rescue did not have an opportunity to go in and take vital signs.

"Take vital signs would require having an arm free. The patient being in handcuffs and being in PD's control. It was not ideal to take vital signs," de Jesus said.

He elaborated that with the position of McClain and "not being able to predict the patient's movements," it was not safe to introduce wires to the scene, according to de Jesus.

De Jesus was excused as a witness, and Austin Bradley was then called to the stand. He used to work with de Jesus as a basic EMT firefighter with the Aurora Fire Department. He now works in the same position for the Franklin, Tennessee Fire Department.

A lot of his answers to the questions being asked by the prosecution was "I don't recall," including when the prosecution asked if anyone got McClain's permission to receive ketamine or explained the effects ketamine has on the body.

And the defense objected to countless questions from the prosecution.

The Colorado Judicial Branch live stream of the trial experienced technical difficulties and went offline just before 11:15 a.m. Monday as the prosecution had just begun introducing Bradley as a witness.

The court took a break at just past noon.

After the break, Dr. Eric Hill took the witness stand. Dr. Hill serves as the medical director for the City of Aurora and oversees protocols that serve as guidelines for EMTs and paramedics for the city.

During his testimony, Hill stated that paramedics and EMT's began to administer ketamine in 2018. He testified that the reason the drug was introduced was because Aurora Fire Rescue was seeing more combative patients, possibly due to drug use, and believed ketamine was a safe drug for these types of patients.

After Hill’s testimony, Aurora Police Sgt. Dale Leonard took the stand. The 20-year veteran of the force was the acting supervisor of the scene during 2019 McClain’s arrest.

He testified that he was concerned for McClain’s breathing but did not convey that concern to paramedics, who were about to arrive on scene.



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