The parents of Elijah McClain spoke out on Wednesday after Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a 32-count indictment against three police officers and two paramedics involved in their son’s death.
McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist from Aurora, Colorado, died on Aug. 30, 2019, after being apprehended by police as he was walking home from a convenience store.
“It’s a sliver of justice. I mean, full justice can never be done here because Elijah will never return to us … he’s dead and his family is going to have to go on without him for all time,” the family’s attorney, Iris Halpern, told ABC News.
“It’s a prayer answered,” McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, told ABC News, adding that he was “ecstatic” to learn of the indictment.
For McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, the charges are “a step toward justice.”
“I’m still praying for them to be in prison. My son’s murderers and their accomplices all need to be in prison for what they did to him,” she told ABC News. “They had no right to stop him. They had no right to handcuff him, brutalize and terrorize him, or inject him with ketamine.”
Charges against Aurora police officers Randy Roedema, Nathan Woodyard, former police officer Jason Rosenblatt and Aurora fire rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Chichuniec came as a result of a grand jury investigation opened in January.
“Each of the five defendants faces one count of manslaughter and one count of criminally negligent homicide,” Weiser said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Among the charges, Roedema and Rosenblatt each face a count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury, while Cooper and Chichuniec face one count of second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and one count of second-degree assault for allegedly administering McClain the sedative drug ketamine without consent.
The Aurora Police Association Board of Directors defended the officers on Wednesday, saying in a statement, “There is no evidence that APD officers caused his death. The hysterical overreaction to this case has severely damaged the police department.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson and Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Fernando Gray both said that each of their departments will continue to cooperate as the judicial process moves forward.
McClain was apprehended by police on the night of Aug. 24, 2019, after a 911 caller said they saw someone “sketchy,” but “might be a good person or a bad person.”
McClain was wearing a ski mask at the time because, according to his family, he had anemia, a blood condition that can make people feel cold more easily.
Bodycam video shows that the officers told McClain he was “being suspicious,” while McClain responded, “I have a right to go where I am going.”
The officers grabbed McClain as he repeatedly urged them to let him go.
During the struggle, he was placed in a carotid chokehold, which restricts the carotid artery, cutting off blood to the brain. McClain pleaded with them that he is non-violent and can be heard saying that he can’t breathe.
When EMTs arrived at the scene, he was administered a shot of 500 milligrams of ketamine and was then loaded on an ambulance, where he had a heart attack, officials said.
He was declared brain dead at the hospital, where he died a few days later.
Following an initial investigation by the county’s district attorney, the officers did not face any charges.
About 10 months after his death, McClain’s case gained national attention amid the civil rights movement that erupted following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minnesota.
In June of 2020, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Weiser to investigate McClain’s death.
“We’re here today because Elijah McClain is not here, and he should be. He was a son, a nephew, a brother and a friend,” Weiser said as he announced the indictment.
Since McClain’s death, Colorado banned the use of chokeholds by police and barred paramedics from using ketamine to subdue suspects.
Weiser said that his department is also investigating whether the police and fire and rescue departments in Aurora “have a pattern and practice of violating the civil rights of their community members.”
Asked what he sees when he thinks of his son today, Mosley said, “Just him smiling.”
“Big smile on his face, knowing that he touched a lot of lives and he saved a lot of lives so another parent doesn’t have to go through this.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Svokos, Meredith Deliso, Stephanie Fuerte, Eric Jones and Suzanne Yeo contributed to this report.