NewsElijah McClain | 360 In-Depth Coverage


Former Aurora paramedic convicted in Elijah McClain’s death sentenced to 4 years of probation

Jeremy Cooper
Elijah McClain Arraignment
jeremy cooper_trial
Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-27 01:14:39-04

The second former Aurora paramedic found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain was sentenced on Friday to four years of probation and more than a year in a work release program.

Jeremy Cooper, along with former paramedic Peter Cichuniec were convicted in December by an Aurora jury on the charge of criminally negligent homicide after administering a deadly dose of ketamine to McClain.

On Friday afternoon, the judge sentenced Cooper to four years of probation. As a term and condition of that sentence, he will also serve 14 months in a work release program and will complete 100 hours of public service, the judge said. During the work release program, he will leave during the day for work but return to jail for evenings and weekends, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said.

He reports to jail on June 7.

2nd ex-Aurora medic convicted in Elijah McClain’s death sentenced to probation

Many people spoke during the sentencing hearing, including the defendant's wife, Tarrah Cooper. She began by offering her condolences to the McClain family, particularly his mother Shaneen McClain.

"Healthcare providers take these losses very personally," she said. "And while I realize it doesn't bring her child back, I want her to know that my heart aches for her. I pray for her inner peace and know that she will be reunited with Elijah again someday."

She said she knew what her husband was thinking on the evening of the incident as the body camera footage was played over and over in court.

"My heart broke because I knew exactly what Jeremy was thinking, because I actually know him," Tarrah said. "He wanted to get his patient out of that situation. He was anxious because he knew time was of the essence and he wanted to help Elijah. A man with Jeremy's level of integrity and commitment to his work is only focused on the task at hand."

She said her husband will carry the loss of Elijah with him forever and asked for a sentence that would allow Jeremy Cooper to see his family.

Cooper also spoke on Friday, and began by saying he did not know how or where to start.

"What I would like to do now is just talk to Elijah," he said. "Elijah, I am a man of faith. I know you are here among us and you can hear me. I wish I wasn't standing here talking up to you because that would mean that you are here. There's so much I want to say to you."

He said at the scene that evening, he desperately wanted to take over care and for the ambulance to arrive so he could get the help McClain needed.

"I wanted to save you," he continued. "I want you to be here with us. I want you to be able to hug your mother, your siblings and your friends. But I know that that isn't possible. I don't pretend to understand the why of all of this, but I can pledge to you that I will spend my remaining balance of my Earthly life trying to learn and grow and try to understand the why. And I will never forget you."

Shaneen McClain, Elijah McClain's mother, also addressed the courtroom.

"You cannot evoke my son's name to absolve you of your own sinful nature," she said. "You betray yourself and your attempts to disrespect me here today, like Jeremy Cooper's disrespectful lawyer — it all shows your culture will not change because you find no fault in your actions... The lack of humanity in your comments are not a surprise at all. Eternal shame on you all."

She said the trials in this case have been exhausting, but worth it.

"I'm here to witness the sentencing for Jeremy Cooper and his participation and my son, Elijah McLean's murder," she said. "Human justice does not come anywhere close to what true accountability is. So I will continue to say, meditate and pray for divine justice for my son, Elijah McClain, from my heart to my hands. Long live Elijah McClain always and forever."

After the sentencing was read in court on Friday, she spoke briefly in front of the courthouse.

"We won. No matter what. Elijah won," she said, with her fist held up. "Always and forever. The bull**** a** lies in America don't mean s***. We won. Elijah won. Elijah's legacy is forever and their legacy is over. That's it and that's all. America is full of hate, full of racism, full of inequality. Nothing here is balanced for every one. They don't care about us. They never did. America's origins are built on racism, slavery, torture, brutality, rape. And an egotistical mindset. They are not better than us. No one is better than us. We have been through too much as a race and as a culture. And we are still here. And we're not going nowhere. Because you brought us over here. Deal with it."

Watch her speak below.

Sheneen McClain after Cooper sentencing: "No matter what. Elijah won"

Cooper’s sentencing comes nearly two months after Cichuniec was sentenced to five years in a Colorado prison, the minimum sentence he could face, to be followed by three years of parole.

Both Cooper and Cichuniec faced additional charges of reckless manslaughter and second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury/causing serious bodily injury. The jury found both paramedics not guilty of those charges.

Cichuniec was also found guilty of second-degree assault by unlawful administration of drugs with a crime of violence enhancer.

Cooper also faced that charge but was acquitted.

Both paramedics, along with three Aurora police officers, were indicted by a grand jury in September 2021, more than two years after McClain’s death.

While three former Aurora police officers were tried for their alleged roles in McClain’s death, only one officer was ultimately convicted.

Former Aurora Police Officer Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third degree assault. He was sentenced to 14 months on the third-degree assault conviction and 4 years probation for the homicide charge.

Watch the verdict in this case below.

Jury finds one Aurora officer guilty, one not guilty in 1st Elijah McClain trial

Former Aurora Police Officer Jason Rosenblatt was acquitted of all charges as was Nathan Woodyard, who was the initial officer to confront McClain.

Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, took issue with the fact that Woodyard, who was the officer to place him in the neck hold, was acquitted, while Roedema was the former cop to be found guilty of charges, the AP reported.

The neck hold rendered the unarmed McClain unconscious, and was a catalyst for protests that followed months later. Medical officials determined the ketamine injection played a key role in his death.

Dr. Stephen Cina, the pathologist whose initial autopsy report found McClain’s cause of death was “undetermined” later amended his report to list “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint” as a factor.

“I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” Cina wrote in his amended autopsy report.

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While Aurora prosecutors initially declined to press charges, Colorado Governor Jared Polis ordered the investigation reopened in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the spring of 2020.

Cooper was the paramedic that injected McClain with ketamine, a sedative, after he was stopped by police while walking home from an Aurora convenience store after a 911 caller reported a “sketchy” man wearing a ski mask. McClain had committed no crime.

Lawyers for the paramedics argued they responded with the ketamine injection to help McClain who they believed was suffering from “excited delirium”, a controversial medical condition described by a patient displaying agitation, aggression and acute distress.

In the trial, prosecutors criticized the paramedics for not coming to the aid of McClain while officers continued to struggle with and pin the 23-year-old to the ground.

But Peter Cichuniec’s defense attorney, David Goddard countered: "At that point in time, they don't have access to McClain. It appears to them that police are actively struggling with the patient," Goddard said. "So they wait. They are powerless to do anything about it.”

Watch the paramedics take the stand in their own trial below.

Paramedics Cichuniec and Cooper testify in their own trial involving the death of Elijah McClain

Cooper’s defense stated he was following Aurora Fire Rescue protocol in administering ketamine, but prosecutors said the paramedics overdosed McClain with 500 mg of the sedative, an inappropriate amount for his weight and size.

After Cooper’s December 2023 conviction, Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Alec Oughton said he was “deeply concerned and disappointed” in the verdict. "I am discouraged that these paramedics have received felony punishment for following their training and protocols in place at the time and for making discretionary decisions while taking split-second action in a dynamic environment," Oughton wrote, adding that his department is committed to making improvements to Aurora Fire Rescue.

Following McClain’s 2019 death, a 2021 Colorado law limited first responders' use of ketamine when responding to a call for service.

Attorney General Phil Weiser released the following statement following Friday's sentence:

“Today’s sentencing marks the end of a very long chapter. Close to four years ago, we were appointed as special prosecutor to investigate and potentially prosecute those responsible for the death of Elijah McClain. With this sentence, we now have accountability for another defendant who failed to act the way the law requires, and we have a measure of justice for Elijah McClain, his family, and loved ones. True justice, however, would be having Elijah alive today. His death was an unnecessary tragedy.

“There were many things that the officers and paramedics could have done the night of August 24, 2019 to prevent this deadly encounter. We recognize important work around integrity in law enforcement and improving first responders remains to be done, and Elijah McClain’s memory will continue to inspire us to do that work.”

The AP contributed to this report.

Denver7 in-depth coverage of Elijah McClain case