Elijah McClain Photo: MGN Online

More than four years after the tragic death of Elijah McClain, advocates led by Midian Holmes, a friend and supporter of Elijah’s mother, are intensifying their efforts to ensure justice is served. The focus is now on the upcoming sentencing of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) Peter Cichuniec, 51, and Jeremy Cooper, 49, scheduled for March 1, 2024.

McClain, a young Black man, died in 2019 following a police encounter in Aurora, Colorado, which escalated into a chokehold and a severe health emergency. Cichuniec and Cooper were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, with Cichuniec also convicted of second-degree assault for administering a fatal overdose of ketamine, a potent sedative, during Elijah’s health crisis on the scene.

Holmes, relentless in her pursuit of justice, emphasizes the gravity of the situation: “It’s a pretty horrific situation where police basically stopped this young Black man, ended up in a cop chokehold, went into a health emergency, was injected with a massive dose of the sedative from EMTs, and died.” Holmes and the McClain family advocate for the maximum sentence, viewing it as a crucial step toward accountability.

In an email statement, Holmes urged supporters to join the cause by writing to Judge Mark Warner, the presiding justice in the Adams County Court. A template has been provided, urging the judge to impose the maximum sentence on the convicted EMTs. Holmes asserts, “It’s not a huge amount of time, but we must fight for every measure of justice we can get.”


Holmes and the McClain family have already seen success in their pursuit of justice. Following Elijah’s death, changes were implemented within the Aurora Police Department (APD). In June 2020, the department banned carotid pressure holds, and the circumstances surrounding the case led to a five-year-long consent decree with 68 mandates. A recent report indicates substantial compliance with 31 out of the 68 mandates as of October, two years into the independent review.

At the state level, in July 2021, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill prohibiting police officers from directing paramedics to administer ketamine. The legislation mandates professionals to weigh individuals before injecting ketamine and bars medical providers from using ketamine to calm someone suspected of criminal behavior.

As the sentencing date approaches, Holmes said the family remains steadfast in their pursuit of justice, hoping to send a powerful message that accountability and reform are crucial components in preventing similar tragedies in the future.

—Stacy M. Brown, NNPA National Correspondent. This article was distributed by NNPA Newswire