Sheneen McClain disgusted by the protocols cited by defense attorneys as justification to give her son ketamine

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
After suspended Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard was found not guilty on charges over his role in the death of Elijah McClain, his mother Sheneen McClain, right, and supporter MiDian Holmes joined hands and raised their fists in protest as they left the Adams County Justice Center, Nov. 6, 2023.

As a jury in Adams County deliberates whether to convict paramedics charged in her son’s death, Sheneen McClain remains frustrated and is ready to “put some boxing gloves on.”

Much of the defense’s position throughout the trial was that the two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic defendants, Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper, were following protocol to treat Elijah McClain, an innocent, Black massage therapist who they claim had “excited delirium.”

There was no evidence McClain ever had that disorder, and police officers didn’t suggest he did to Cichuniec and Cooper until after they decided to give him ketamine, a sedative approved to treat it, according to body-worn cameras shown in court.

The paramedics gave McClain, who was 143 pounds, a dose of ketamine meant for a 200 to 225-pound person, according to prosecutors. He had already been given two carotid holds by police officers and was vomiting repeatedly both into a mask, at first, but then on the grass, while handcuffed. 

McClain’s pulse stopped in the ambulance a few minutes after the ketamine was given and he never regained consciousness. He died a few days later in the hospital.

“No amount of procedures, practices, protocols or the lack of training for service jobs will ever replace the human heart. I am sure that if Elijah had been one of their children, family members, friends, or comrades, they would not have been so indifferent to what was happening, like they were with my son.”

— sheneen mcclain

She still hopes there is some accountability for Cichuniec and Cooper, but she is disappointed in the results of the first two trials of three Aurora police officers who violently detained McClain on Aug 24, 2019. Two of the three were acquitted of reckless manslaughter and assault.

Another, Randy Roedema, was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a low-level felony, and will be sentenced Jan. 5.

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

As everyone awaits the paramedics’ verdict, Sheneen McClain is disgusted how much they clung to protocols to justify their actions.

“They can not blame their job training for their indifference to evil or their participation in an evil action … that is completely on them,” she said. “May all their souls rot in hell when their time comes.”

McClain awaits the verdict in the hallway just a few feet from the courtroom, along with community advocates.