US cop jailed for 14 months over death of Black man

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A white US police officer was sentenced to 14 months in prison Friday over the 2019 death of a young Black man who was put in a police chokehold and injected with ketamine.

The death of Elijah McClain in the western United States occurred months before the high-profile killing of George Floyd, but drew renewed attention soon after as protests against police brutality swelled.

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A special investigation was launched in 2020, and Randy Roedema was convicted of manslaughter in October, while two other police officers were acquitted.

Sentencing Roedema in a Colorado court Friday, judge Mark Werner said he was “shocked by what appeared to be, really, indifference to Elijah McClain’s suffering.”

McClain “was handcuffed and really wasn’t much of a threat to anybody,” noted Werner.

McClain, 23, died in Aurora, near Denver, three days after he was put in a chokehold by police, injected with ketamine to sedate him and suffered cardiac arrest.

Police had responded to a call about a “suspicious” black male “acting weird” in the street and wearing a ski mask, the district attorney’s report said. One officer said McClain, who was unarmed, had reached for another officer’s gun.

McClain’s family said he had been out buying iced tea, and often wore the mask to stay warm because he suffered from anemia.

“Randy Roedema will always be a bully with a badge,” said Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, on Friday ahead of the sentencing.

“Prison is the only accountable justice that Randy Roedema deserves”, she said, while denouncing the Colorado police’s “inhuman protocols.”

Roedema on Friday told the judge he and fellow officers had “responded in the way we were trained to do.”

Last month, a Colorado jury separately found two paramedics guilty of criminally negligent homicide over the incident.

They are awaiting sentencing.

The case, which was initially closed by police, was reopened in June 2020, when Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed the state’s attorney-general to probe McClain’s death.

A celebrity-backed online petition calling for justice in the case passed three million signatures, and Polis said at the time he had been “moved” after speaking with Sheneen McClain.

On Friday, Sheneen McClain told the judge that there was “no reason for Randy Roedema to put his knee in my son’s back, and sit on my son’s chest.”

Her son “was already handcuffed” and “just needed to sit up so he could breathe better.”

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