A white American police officer was sentenced to fourteen months in prison on Friday January 5 for his role in the death of Elijah McClain, a young black man who was strangled and injected with ketamine during his arrest in August 2019 .

The judge who handed down this sentence said he was “shocked by the apparent indifference” of the police officer “to the suffering” of the young man, who was “handcuffed and really was not a threat to anyone.”

Among the three law enforcement officers prosecuted in this case brandished as a symbol of police brutality in the United States, Randy Roedema is the only one to have been convicted of manslaughter in October. The two other police officers were acquitted. The judge also sentenced him to four years of probation.

“Randy Roedema will always be a bully with a badge,” Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, said Friday, denouncing the police’s “inhumane protocols.” For her, “prison is the only justice” that the police officer “deserves”.

The death of the 23-year-old black man in Aurora, Colorado (west), did not initially attract media attention. She only came out of the shadows after the murder of George Floyd, another African-American, by a police officer in 2020.

An injection of ketamine by two rescuers

Elijah McClain died of a heart attack three days after his arrest, during which he was put in a police chokehold and then given an injection of ketamine – a powerful sedative – by two paramedics. Tried separately, the two rescuers were found guilty of manslaughter in December and are awaiting sentencing.

“We reacted as we were trained to do,” Randy Roedema maintained Friday before the judge. The former police officer, since dismissed, also presented his “sincere condolences”.

On the day of the incident, police were called by a person describing a “suspicious” black man wearing a ski mask and “acting strangely” on a street in Aurora.

A police officer claimed that Elijah McClain, who was not carrying any weapon, tried to grab his revolver during the intervention.

A petition with three million signatures

According to the victim’s family, he had simply gone out to buy an iced tea and often wore this ski mask so as not to be cold, because he suffered from anemia.

“There was no reason for Randy Roedema to put his knee on my son’s back and sit on his chest,” McClain insisted, recalling that Elijah was “already handcuffed” and “just needed to sit up to breathe better.”

The case was initially closed, but Colorado Governor Jared Polis requested the resumption of investigations in June 2020 after speaking with the family of the deceased. A petition launched to reopen the investigation had collected more than three million signatures.