Watch CBS News

Aurora city councilmember calls for medical director to step down following Elijah McClain verdict

City council member calls for medical director to resign after Elijah McClain verdict
City council member calls for medical director to resign after Elijah McClain verdict 03:32

An Aurora City Council member is speaking out after the conviction of two paramedics in the death of Elijah McClain, calling for changes to protocol, and for the city's medical director to step down.

"Elijah McClain should still be alive today. I think it's a tragedy that he's not," said Curtis Gardner, who became an Aurora City Council member shortly after McClain's death in 2019. 

"I think it's hung over everything we've done since I was elected," said Gardner. 

McClain's story culminated on Friday with the conviction of two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, on one charge each of criminally negligent homicide. Cichuniec was also found guilty of second-degree assault-unlawful administration of drugs.

RELATED: Paramedics who injected Elijah McClain with ketamine found guilty

A jury found Aurora police officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault in a separate trial. Two other officers were acquitted.

"I love you Elijah," McClain's mother, Sheneen McClain, said after the verdict, her first raised in the air.

Elijah McClain Aurora Fire Paramedics Verdict
Sheneen McClain, center, walks out of the Adams County Justice Center with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, left, and friend, MiDian Holmes after Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for the death of Sheneens son, Elijah McClain Dec. 22, 2023. Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

She released a statement Saturday morning, saying, in part, "no, the three out of five convictions are not justice. The only thing the convictions serve is a very small acknowledgment of accountability in the justice system." 

"We are satisfied by today's verdict and we remain confident that bringing these cases forward was the right thing to do," Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said after the trial. 

In the years since McClain's death, the city of Aurora has updated law enforcement protocols and banned the use of ketamine, a powerful sedative sometimes administered by paramedics and doctors.

A weight-based drug, the amount of ketamine McClain was given would have been more appropriate for a person more than 200 pounds, which is what Cooper told the court he estimated McClain's weight to be at. McClain actually weighed closer to 140 pounds.

Elijah McClain Courtesy / McClain family

"These firefighters followed protocols they were given by the medical director and they were just found guilty of criminally negligent homicide," said Gardner. 

Now Gardner says medical protocols need to change and so does the person who sets them for the fire department. 

"I would like to see those protocols updated and I would like to see a new medical director in the city of Aurora," he said. 

He's calling for an end to the use of sedatives in law enforcement settings. 

"They are very powerful drugs. There are obviously legitimate uses for them. But those uses need to be in a controlled medical setting or when a medical decision has been made that it's the best course of action for the patient," said Gardner. 

He also wants to increase funding and support for the city's firefighters. 

"If I was a first responder I would be terrified. If I follow my protocols am I gonna become a convicted felon?" said Gardner. 

Though the trials may be over, Gardner says change in Aurora is not.

"They need to change and they need to change now," said Gardner. 

RELATED: Read all our coverage of Elijah McClain here

Gardner echoes the words of Aurora Fire Rescue Chief Alec Oughton, who said in a statement, "while I appreciate the jury's diligence, integrity and public service to ensure a fair trial, I am discouraged that these paramedics have received felony punishment for following their training and protocols in place at the time and for making discretionary decisions while taking split-second action in a dynamic environment." 

The International Association of Firefighters also shared a statement, saying, in part, "Colorado Attorney General Weiser's decision to criminalize split-second medical decisions sets a dangerous, chilling precedent for pre-hospital care in our country. There are far-reaching consequences we will address at a more appropriate time. But when politics drive prosecution -- forcing firefighters and paramedics to second-guess decisions -- public safety is compromised."  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.