Elijah McClain’s mother feels like justice has not been served

Sheneen McClain. Aug. 16, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Sheneen McClain. Aug. 16, 2021.

Sheneen McClain is angry. And she decided to write it down.

Heading into the third and final trial on who is responsible for her son’s death, Elijah McClain’s mother doesn’t feel like there has been enough accountability so far within Aurora institutions.

She is disgusted with acquitted Aurora Police officer Nathan Woodyard’s return to the department and believes the jury didn’t see her son’s story without bias.

“Aurora, Colorado, does not want trust of the community,” Sheneen McClain wrote in a memo shared with CPR News. “Aurora Colorado police departments just want us all to bow down to their evil ways and insensitive behaviors.”

Two officers, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard, were found not guilty of reckless manslaughter in her 23-year-old son’s death in August 2019. Another officer, Randy Roedema, was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and will be sentenced in January. 

On trial now are the two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, who administered a powerful sedative to McClain without his consent when he was already handcuffed. His pulse stopped in the ambulance a few minutes later, and he never regained consciousness.

“When we pay taxes so that police officers have to include body cameras on their uniforms to record their interactions, but we refuse to hold that evidence as the truth, that is disgraceful,” Sheneen McClain wrote. “That is also dishonest and misleading all communities to invest in those who repeatedly ignore our contributions to their paychecks.”

Sheneen McClain expressed frustration with the two Adams County juries that handed down not-guilty verdicts in her son’s death. Only the second one had one woman who appeared to be Black serving on it. The first one appeared to have no Black people. The current jury weighing the case against the paramedics also does not appear to have a Black person on it.

“Civilians should not be handed criminal cases that involve government, state or city official employees,” she said. “Those cases should be judged by other professionals based on professional misconduct … Juror biases are indifferent to evil.”

Aurora settled a lawsuit with McClain’s family in 2021 for $15 million, shared by Sheneen McClain, Elijah McClain’s father and their attorneys. Sheneen McClain regularly attended court in the first trial and a little more sporadically in the second. 

She did not attend opening statements Wednesday in Adams County. Elijah McClain’s father has never been in court.

“The lack of humanity is cruelty. The lack of goodness is evil. The lack of love is hate. The lack of truth is lies,” she wrote. “The lack of accountability in Aurora Colorado agencies is criminal.”