Colorado paramedic sentenced to 5 years for ketamine death of Elijah McClain

By Clyde Hughes & Ehren Wynder

March 1 (UPI) -- A Colorado paramedic was sentenced Friday in connection with the 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colo.

Adams County District Judge Mark Warner sentenced former Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic Peter Cichuniec to five years in prison and three years of probation.


Cichuniec was sentenced to five years on the most serious charge, assault, and another year for criminally negligent homicide. He will serve both sentences at the same time.

"Elijah will always be on my mind, along with all the others," Cichuniec said before the sentencing. "I am very sorry that Elijah is no longer with us, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Ms. McClain lost a son, but I lost a patient, and I do not take that lightly."

Warner said he gave Cichuniec the minimum level of sentencing as a matter of public safety, but he also said he does not believe Cichuniec is a risk to the public.

A jury in December found Peter Cichuniec guilty of second-degree assault for the unlawful administration of drugs and criminally negligent homicide. He and his paramedic co-defendant were accused of giving McClain, 23, excessive amounts of ketamine to sedate him after an altercation with police in August 2019.


Police Officer Randy Roedema was convicted on criminal negligent homicide charges in the case while two other officers connected to the case were found not guilty.

McClain was unarmed and wearing a ski mask when he was confronted by officers who said they had the right to stop him because he was "being suspicious." McClain was walking home from a convenience store and tried to leave when the encounter turned physical.

Cichuniec and Cooper arrived and administered the ketamine, which was blamed for causing McClain's heart to stop.

"Elijah did nothing wrong that evening," Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in December after the verdict. "His life mattered and he should be here today. Accountability does not end with these trials. Too many times we have seen people die when officers unnecessarily escalate situations that don't call for the use of force."

Local prosecutors initially refused to bring charges against the police and paramedics in McClain's death but the case received new life after the death of George Floyd and intensified Black Lives Matter protest sacross the country.


In 2021, a grand jury indicted the paramedics on the scene along with the three officers who physically took McClain to the ground.

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