A paramedic was given a five-year prison sentence for Elijah McClain’s death

A Colorado paramedic received a five-year prison sentence on Friday for the death of Elijah McClain, a Black pedestrian who was administered a fatal dose of ketamine in 2019 following an altercation with the police.

Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide by a jury in December. Additionally, Cichuniec was also convicted of second-degree assault for unlawfully administering drugs.

Cichuniec received a five-year prison sentence on Friday, while Cooper is set to be sentenced in April.

On the night of Aug. 24, 2019, police encountered McClain, 23, in Aurora after receiving a call about a suspicious person wearing a ski mask. McClain’s family explained that he often wore the mask due to a blood condition that made him feel cold.

Tears streamed down Cichuniec’s face as his wife, also overcome with emotion, stepped forward to address the court before the sentencing. His sobs continued unabated as his two sons took their turn to speak.

Cichuniec expressed his deep anguish over not being able to inform McClain’s mother about her son’s well-being.

The Adams County coroner determined that McClain’s cause of death was “complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint.”

According to an independent investigation commissioned by the city of Aurora, it was determined that the police lacked sufficient justification to stop or use force to detain McClain. Furthermore, the report revealed that the paramedics who responded to the scene sedated him with ketamine without conducting a thorough assessment beyond a brief visual observation.

Warner pointed out that Cichuniec and his colleagues were taught to believe that the condition known as “excited delirium” could be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. However, Warner stated that this condition is now considered discredited. In the past, Colorado permitted EMS to administer ketamine as a treatment for excited delirium, but the state health guidelines have since been revised.

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Cichuniec was given a five-year prison sentence for the assault charge, as required by law.

Cichuniec received a one-year sentence for the charge of criminally negligent homicide, which will be served concurrently with the five-year sentence. He will be given credit for the 70 days he has already served in jail, and he will be placed on parole for a period of three years.

Attorney General Phil Weiser expressed his satisfaction with the sentencing of Cichuniec, stating that it holds the defendant accountable for the criminal negligence that resulted in McClain’s death.

According to Weiser, it is important to send a clear and powerful message that individuals in any profession, including paramedics, nurses, police officers, elected officials, and CEOs, should not be exempt from criminal prosecution if they commit illegal acts that cause harm to others.

Cichuniec and Cooper are the final two out of five first responders who faced criminal charges in relation to McClain’s death.

In October, Aurora police officer Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. His sentence was handed down in January, and he will serve one year and two months in jail.

Officers Nathan Woodyard and Jason Rosenblatt faced charges, but they were ultimately acquitted by juries.

Following McClain’s tragic death, Aurora Fire Rescue has implemented several changes to enhance emergency procedures and incidents oversight. Chief Alec Oughton has emphasized the re-establishment of a medical branch as part of these measures. Additionally, a mandatory review of sedative usage has been implemented to ensure the highest standard of care.

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