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Parademics' Conviction In McClain Case Could Chill First Responders

Two Colorado paramedics were convicted Friday for giving a fatal overdose of the sedative ketamine to Elijah McClain in 2019. The verdict could have a chilling effect on first responders, reports the Associated Press.

The case involving the 23-year-old Black man’s death was the first among several criminal prosecutions against medical first responders to reach trial, potentially setting the bar for future prosecutions. It was the last of three trials against police and paramedics in the death of McClain, whom officers stopped on a suspicious person complaint. He was injected with the sedative after being forcibly restrained. The case received little attention until protests over the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. An Aurora police officer was convicted of homicide and third degree assault this year, while two other officers were acquitted.

A prosecutor told jurors that the paramedics failed to care properly for McClain when they overdosed him. The paramedics told investigators in videotaped interviews previously unseen in public that McClain had “excited delirium,” a disputed condition critics say is unscientific and rooted in racism. The jury found Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec guilty of criminally negligent homicide. McClain’s mother, Sheneen, raised her fist in the air after the verdict, saying, “We did it! We did it! We did it!” The outcome could set a precedent for how emergency personnel respond to situation s with people in police custody, said University of Miami criminologist Alex Piquero. “Imagine if you’re a paramedic,” Piquero said. “They could be hesitant. They could say, ‘I’m not going to do anything’ or ‘I’m going to do less. I don’t want to be found guilty.’” The International Association of Fire Fighters said that in pursuing charges, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser had criminalized split-second medical decisions and set “a dangerous, chilling precedent for pre-hospital care.” The city of Aurora said the two paramedics were fired after their convictions.


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