What the Elijah McClain criminal charges could mean for future paramedic work

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — The indictments against three officers and two paramedics in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain are unlike any other prominent case, legal experts say.

The 23-year-old died after he was placed in a carotid hold by Aurora Police Officers and injected with the powerful sedative ketamine.

Ian Farrell, associate professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said the charges against the paramedics make this case unique.

In addition to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec also face assault charges for how they used ketamine on McClain that night. The drug is described as a “deadly weapon” in the charges.

Farrell said he’s not aware of any other case that classifies ketamine in that manner, but he’s not surprised by it based on Colorado’s criminal code.

“I think it clearly covers an injection of ketamine and a lot of other things that one might not think of as a deadly weapon. The question is whether or not the object in question is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury,” Farrell said.

Based on medical calculations, the dosage of ketamine used on McClain was too much for a 200-pound individual. McClain weighed 143 pounds. Farrell said that’s likely a key reason this case is criminal.

“I am not aware of any other case where the paramedics have been charged with a homicide offense. There are situations where a medical professional, such as a paramedic, does not give adequate care, so they fail to do something and that can lead to criminal charges,” Farrell said.

The paramedics in this case are charged based on the result of administering a substance. Farrell said that could lead to significant changes for first responders.

“I think it may change — and should change — the relationship and dynamic between police and paramedics,” Farrell said.

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