The trial has commenced for two Aurora paramedics, Lt. Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper, who are facing criminal charges in the death of Elijah McClain. The case is being closely watched by first responders across the country as it is a rare instance of medical personnel facing prosecution over a fatal police encounter.
During the opening statements, the focus was on the role of paramedics at the scene when called for assistance by the police, whether there was a legitimate reason to administer ketamine to McClain, and whether the paramedics followed protocol. Defense attorneys for Cichuniec and Cooper attempted to shift blame onto the Aurora police officers involved in the incident.
Prosecutors presented their case, arguing that the paramedics injected McClain with a maximum dose of ketamine, which would have been appropriate for a 200-pound individual but not for McClain, who weighed 140 pounds. Dr. Stephen Cina, a forensic pathologist, is expected to testify that ketamine caused McClain’s death after he choked on his own vomit.
The state solicitor general, Shannon Stevenson, highlighted Aurora Fire Rescue’s protocol for administering ketamine and stated that the paramedics failed to follow their training. She argued that the paramedics acted with total disregard for McClain’s well-being and that he did not require ketamine based on his behavior.
The defense attorneys countered by emphasizing the paramedics’ distinct roles at the scene and their reliance on the information provided by the police officers. They claimed that Cichuniec and Cooper did not commit a crime while trying to help McClain.
The trial, taking place in Adams County District Court before Judge Mark D. Warner, is expected to last several weeks. The prosecution’s case is receiving national attention, with firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics attending the trial.