Elijah Mcclain, trial

Prosecutors Highlight Claims That Elijah McClain Said ‘I Can’t Breathe’ 7 Times During Police Encounter

In opening statements in Adams County District Court, according to NBC News, prosecutors stated that 23-year-old Elijah McClain said, “I can’t breathe,” to the police officers seven times before a paramedic injected him with ketamine, leading to his death.

On the evening of Aug. 24, 2019, two police officers, Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt, restrained McClain on the ground after an unjustified stop. The young massage therapist was stopped as he walked home from a convenience store. He was restrained by police with a chokehold that has since been banned. The prosecutor, Jonathan Bunge said that instead of helping McClain, they ignored his pleas for help and told the arriving paramedics that he was resisting and had “crazy strength.”

Rosenblatt was fired by the Aurora Police Department.

As the police body camera footage was being played, Bunge said, “Listen to Elijah’s words. When Elijah is on the ground handcuffed, he’s saying over and over and over again, ‘I can’t breathe. Please help me.’”

The paramedics then gave McClain ketamine “as he was drifting closer and closer to death,” the prosecutor said. “The sedative was the very last thing he needed at the time.”

Seven minutes after paramedics injected McClain with the ketamine, he did not have a pulse and went into cardiac arrest as he was being transported to the hospital. He died three days later.

Both Roedema and Rosenblatt, who have pleaded not guilty, have been charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide.

Roedema’s attorney, Reid Elkus, said that his client was not on the scene when McClain was initially stopped. He claimed that McClain didn’t start resisting until Nathan Woodyard, another former Aurora police officer, placed a carotid hold on him. He added that the paramedics diagnosed McClain with “excited delirium” and then injected him with a lethal dose of ketamine.

He stated that McClain died because Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic Jeremy Cooper injected too much ketamine for a man his size.

Rosenblatt’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said McClain was resisting furiously and at one point stated, “I intend to take my power back” and that Rosenblatt was “obligated” to help arrest McClain and at one point heard Roedema say McClain had “gone for” the gun of one of the police officers.

Woodyard, Cooper, and another Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic, Peter Cichuniec, are also charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide and all have pleaded not guilty.

When the unarmed McClain was stopped, Aurora police officers claimed they were responding to a report of a suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving his arms. McClain was carrying a plastic bag that had three cans of iced tea in his left hand while he had his phone in his right hand. They stopped him as he was walking home from a gas station mini-mart.

McClain was wearing a mask and a long coat, but his family stated he was wearing them because of a blood condition that made him feel cold.

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