Photo: Elijah McClain | NPR Staff | A group of police officers and paramedics pleaded not guilty Friday to charges stemming from the role they are accused of playing in the death of a 23-year-old Black man who was forcibly restrained and injected with a powerful sedative called ketamine.

They were indicted by a state grand jury on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges in 2021. Two years earlier, Elijah McClain died after being stopped while walking down the street in the Denver suburb of Aurora. A 911 caller had reported a man who seemed “sketchy.”

An amended autopsy report released last year concluded that McClain would have most likely survived but for the administration of a dose of ketamine that was higher than recommended for someone his size. However, the manner of McClain’s death was still listed as undetermined, not a homicide.

McClain’s death fueled renewed scrutiny about the use of the ketamine and led Colorado’s health department to issue a rule limiting when emergency workers can use it.
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Police officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt, and fire department paramedic Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec all pleaded not guilty during a hearing in the Denver suburb of Brighton. They didn’t say anything about the allegations.
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Family and friends described McClain as a gentle and kind introvert who volunteered to play his violin to comfort cats at an animal shelter. His pleading words captured on police body camera video — “I’m just different” — painfully underscored his apparent confusion at what was happening.

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