DENVER – Sheneen McClain says she was overwhelmed and cried when she learned a Colorado grand jury had indicted the two paramedics and three police officers involved in the death of her son, Elijah McClain.
“The Attorney General [Phil] Weiser, I’m grateful to his team. I’m grateful to the grand jury. They sat through all that evidence when it was hard for me just to get through the videos,” she said. “I’m grateful to everything that they’ve done to prove that my son was innocent. But I’m overwhelmed. I’m shocked and still processing it.”
Weiser on Wednesday morning announced a 32-count indictment against the five first responders involved in the incident that led to Elijah McClain’s death in August 2019. All five face manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, and four of them face assault charges.
“I have been saying for the longest time that the paramedics were actually accomplices to my son’s murder,” Sheneen McClain said. “They were the allies to the police officers, which basically were there to ensure that my son didn’t come home that night.”
Weiser said he had spoken with Sheneen McClain in the days before Wednesday’s announcement to inform her of the indictment handed down last Thursday by the state grand jury.
McClain said that justice for her son would be him still being alive today and that she’s still heartbroken two years later.
“There was no reason for him to be stopped. There was no reason for him to be brutalized, let alone injected with ketamine. Everything that happened from the time that they stopped him – the handcuffs should have been enough,” she said in an interview. “If the police felt that he really did something wrong, the handcuffs should have been enough. But they went further. They brutalized him. They terrorized him. And then they posted a picture about it.”
Sheneen says she still talks to Elijah – he visits her at her home. But she knows nothing will bring the physical Elijah back.
“Elijah is basically telling me this is my job. You know, he did his job,” she said. “…He just wants me to know that he’s as proud of me as I am of him. … I know he feels comfortable with the fact that his life and his death is changing how we move as people today.”
As for what she wants officers and others to learn from her son’s death and the indictment, Sheneen McClain said she wants people to learn that not everyone is a threat.
“There are a lot of people that are out here just trying to live like everyone else, and we deserve that,” she said. “everybody deserves the right to live their life how they want to live it.”
She also wants the four officers and paramedics who are still employed fired quickly. Their indictments on felony charges kicks in a provision of the city charter that mandates they be put on mandatory unpaid leave.
“I want to see it fast because they’ve been harboring fugitives. Like, they’re literally murderers, serial killers that have been paid and employed by the state,” Sheneen said. “And that shows that there’s a lot more people in the system that are not doing their job the right way, because there’s no way they should have been able to keep a job after that.”
Iris Halpern, one of McClain's attorneys, said she believes the indictments show that the era of no accountability is over "and police officers are just not going to be able to get away with it anymore."
"I think what it says about what happened to Elijah McClain is that ordinary people can recognize how wrong it was that he was murdered, that he was completely innocent, and that justice has to be done in this case," Halpern said. "And that is what the grand jury said today with their indictment."