Randy Roedema, the former Aurora police officer who on Friday became the first to be sentenced in the death of Elijah McClain, called for changes to how first responders are trained to handle cases like McClain’s.
Roedema addressed the judge for roughly four minutes before being sentenced to 14 months in jail and four years of probation. He was found guilty in October of third-degree assault and criminally negligent homicide, and was the only officer convicted in the case.
In his address, which began with condolences to McClain’s family for the “agony” his death has brought them, Roedema lamented the events of the evening of Aug. 24, 2019.
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“I cannot help but contemplate all the different scenarios that could have taken place that evening that may have resulted in a different outcome and how I wish one of those scenarios would have actually occurred," he said.
A bystander had called police to report McClain as a suspicious person while the 23-year-old walked home from a convenience store. During the ensuing encounter, another officer – Nathan Woodyard, who was later acquitted – put McClain in a neck hold and paramedics gave him a heavy dose of ketamine.
“We all responded to the incident in the way that we were all trained to do,” Roedema said Friday.
“Needless to say, the situation had a horrible outcome that nobody intended or wanted to happen,” he continued. “Honestly, I pray that steps will be taken to change the way first responders are trained to handle these types of situations.”
Several changes have been made to policing in Colorado since McClain’s death, including Senate Bill 20-217, a sweeping police accountability bill signed into law in 2020.
That bill made changes to the rules surrounding both use of deadly force and the administering of ketamine, banned carotid and choke holds, and beefed up reporting requirements for police departments.
Gov. Polis signs sweeping Colorado police reform bill
In February of 2022, Aurora’s police and fire departments formally entered into a consent decree focused on improving policies and officer training in direct response to McClain’s death. The decree carried 68 mandates around training, bias and use of force, among other things.
A November progress report found the departments were fulfilling more than half of those mandates, but still missing use-of-force data.
What we heard about Roedema’s character
In his plea for a minimum sentence, Roedema painted himself as a rule-follower. The 41-year-old is a former Marine who was badly injured in Iraq.
“I took my role as a Marine and a police officer very seriously,” he said. “I follow the rules and protocols that were set in place by the departments that oversee these entities. I wholeheartedly believe that I need to abide by these rules, not only to set the example and lead by example, but I also believe they are implemented to protect the people in the community.”
Roedema’s sister also spoke in support of her brother, describing him as a family man and a “great dad” to his children.
“He's taught all of his three kids to have good manners and to not pass judgment on others,” she said. “He's always shown the utmost respect to anybody who he comes across [...] and that's been passed down to all three of his kids.”
She described Roedema as a “person of integrity” who had received multiple commander’s commendations during his time with the police department.
Roedema said he had begun work in a different job since being terminated by the police department following the October verdict.
What’s next for Roedema?
He has until March 22 to report to the Adams County Jail or an equivalent facility to begin his 14-month sentence, which was handed down as a result of the third-degree assault conviction. That sentence comes with a work release, meaning he can continue working while serving jail time.
Roedema also received four years of probation and 200 hours of community service as part of his sentencing Friday.