In the four weeks since the trials have begun for officers charged in the death of her second oldest child, Elijah McClain’s mother, Sheneen, has struggled with how much people ask her how she’s doing.
“My son was murdered by Aurora city employees,” she said. “And despite the diversity in Aurora, Colorado, none of the jury was of people that could relate to me. So one thing that is true is that this is America and it's not united.”
Reeling from the emotions of a split verdict on Oct. 12 in the trial of the first two officers charged for McClain’s death, Sheneen has reflected that her son, a 23-year-old Black man, should have been the police officer that night encountering the three white men on the street.
“Elijah did everything right,” Sheneen said. “Elijah should have been the peace officer on the other end of that because I guarantee you that had Elijah been the peace officer, every last one of them would have gotten to go home with a simple conversation,” she said.
McClain is angry about how the first trial ended with Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt. Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault, lesser charges than originally filed by the attorney general’s office in 2021.
Roedema’s sentencing is in January, but both crimes are probation-eligible, which means there is a chance, given that he had no prior criminal record, that he won’t face any jail time. Rosenblatt, who didn’t communicate with the paramedics about McClain’s condition and didn’t kneel on his back or pull his shoulder, was found not guilty of all crimes.
“There was so much evidence, I thought it was a slam dunk. I thought there was no way they was going to rule in favor of my son's murderers, but that's exactly what they did,” she said, in a lengthy interview after the first verdict. “He's a white man that murdered a Black person. They gave him the lesser charge, giving him the opportunity to have a second chance at life. All of them are guilty of putting their hands on my son.”
Sheneen McClain had some really unusual moments in the weeks of trial and jury deliberations at the Adams County Justice Center, in Brighton, where she sat in the front row most days behind the prosecutors. Usually, a lawyer from the attorney general’s office sat with her.
Before the judge read the verdict, a juror rolled her eyes at her, she said. Then, at another point earlier, Roedema tried to hold the door open for her. She didn’t let him because she said, “I refused to allow him to show me how much of a gentleman he's not,” she said. “A little too late, little too late.”
She also said once she went to the women’s restroom to cry and a family member of one of the defendant’s waited for her and asked if she could pray for her.
“That's their God,” she said. “With all the races that live on this earth, there is no way we all serve the same God. It's not possible or else they would treat people that look like me, people that look like my son, better. But they ignore their own humanity for their ego and their pride and their patriotism.”
McClain said it’s especially heartbreaking listening to her son’s last words to officers after they took him to the grass and placed him in a carotid hold, which cut blood flow off to his brain and caused him to briefly pass out.
Shouting at officers and detained, Elijah McClain said, “my name is Elijah McClain. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I don’t eat meat. I don’t do any fighting.”
Sheneen McClain said she shows up in the Adams County courtroom so the defendants and the jurors see her face.
“They're going to see my Black face, and they're going to see me looking right at them in their face to see if they have a shred of humanity, just like my son was pleading to their humanity,” she said. “I look my son's murderers in their face. They have no remorse. They have no regrets. They have no guilt for what they did. They’re just mad that their own body cam videos caught them.”
In some of the darker moments, Sheneen talks to her son and he helps her through those times.
“Before the jury first deliberated, I was sitting on pins and needles,” she said. “I was hanging on the edge of my seat, and then Elijah told me not to worry because this is not the final destination.”
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