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US paramedic sentenced over death of Black man during arrest

By AFP

April 27, 2024 09:55 PM


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One of two paramedics who injected a young Black man with ketamine as he was put in a chokehold by US police was sentenced Friday to 14 months in jail with work release and probation, in the final chapter of a case that became a clarion call in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Jeremy Cooper had been convicted in December of criminally negligent homicide over the death of Elijah McClain, an unarmed 23-year-old who died several days after a struggle with police in Colorado.

He had suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance in the moments after his forceful arrest.

At a court in Colorado on Friday, Cooper, 49, was given 14 months in jail with work release, and four years' probation, US media reported.

Work-release programs typically require convicts to spent nights and weekends in jail, though they are free to leave for work during weekdays.

Fellow paramedic Peter Cichuniec was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault by drugging. He was sentence last month to five years in prison, the mandatory minimum for the assault conviction.

The episode unfolded in August 2019 when police in the city of Aurora responded to reports of a "suspicious" Black male "acting weird" in the street and wearing a ski mask.

McClain's family later told media he had been out buying iced tea, and often wore the mask to stay warm because he suffered from anemia.

One officer said McClain, who was unarmed, had reached for another officer's gun. No evidence was produced to support this claim.

They grappled with him and while they were restraining him Cichuniec and Cooper injected him with ketamine.

During the trial, the paramedics' lawyers argued that their clients had simply followed protocol in administering a drug approved in Colorado for people in an "agitated state."

Prosecutors countered they had ignored their training in handling distressed patients.

McClain's death occurred months before the killing of another Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis in May 2020, but drew renewed attention soon after as protests against police brutality swelled.

A celebrity-backed campaign led to a special investigation in which three police officers were ultimately indicted, along with the two paramedics.

Two of the police officers were acquitted, while the third was sentenced in January to 14 months behind bars.


AFP


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