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Paramedic gets 5 years in prison for Elijah McClain’s death in rare case against medical responders

A Colorado paramedic was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for the death of Elijah McClain in an unusual prosecution of a health care worker, prompting authorities to reconsider how they treat people in police custody.

The convictions of Peter Cichniec and his fellow paramedics have shocked paramedics across the country, putting their profession in the midst of an uphill battle for social justice sparked by the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. I pushed it in.

Sytuniec and Jeremy Cooper were found guilty in December of manslaughter for administering a sedative to McClain, a 23-year-old black massage therapist, in the 2019 death of McClain.

Szczniec was also found guilty of the more serious charge of second-degree assault for administering drugs without consent or a legitimate medical purpose.

Jurors concluded that the assault caused serious injury or death and required a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Fire union officials criticized the state’s prosecution of Cicuniec, saying it prevents firefighters from becoming paramedics, reducing the number of qualified personnel in an emergency, thereby putting lives at risk. .

McClain’s death initially drew little attention, but it gained renewed attention as large-scale protests spread across the United States in 2020, and his name rallied people to criticize racial injustice in policing. It became.

On August 24, 2019, police stopped McClain in the Denver suburb of Aurora after a 911 caller reported that he looked suspicious as he walked down the street wearing a mask and waving his arms.

McClain, who was listening to music in his earphones, appeared to be caught off guard when the officer placed his hand on him within seconds of approaching him.


The convictions of Peter Cichniec and his fellow paramedics have shocked the ranks of paramedics across the country, thrusting their profession into the bitter battle over social justice sparked by the killing of George Floyd. AP

A struggle ensued, during which McClain was held by the neck and restrained, for about 20 minutes before he was injected with 500 milligrams of ketamine.

He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was taken off life support three days later.

Experts testified that the sedative ultimately killed McClain. McClain was already weak, having difficulty breathing as he was pinned down after inhaling vomit into his lungs during a struggle with police.


Protesters march outside a police station holding large placards with a picture of Elijah McClain wearing a black hat during the rally.
Sytuniec and Jeremy Cooper were found guilty in December of manslaughter for administering a sedative to McClain, a 23-year-old black massage therapist, in the 2019 death of McClain. AP

The incident highlighted gaps in medical protocols for sedating people in police custody, which experts said needed to be addressed to prevent further deaths.

The only police officer convicted in McClain’s death, Randy Rodema, was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

He was sentenced in January to 14 months in prison.

Two other officers charged were acquitted after weeks of jury trials.

Cooper is scheduled to be sentenced in April and could receive anything from probation to three years in prison.

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