Jury Acquits Officer Nathan Woodyard in Elijah McClain’s Death
Officer Nathan Woodyard has been acquitted of all charges related to the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado. Woodyard had been charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless manslaughter after placing McClain in a carotid hold during an arrest, which later resulted in McClain’s death. Since McClain’s death, Colorado has banned police chokeholds and limited the use of ketamine during arrests, and the McClain family settled a civil rights lawsuit with the city for $15 million in 2021, the largest in Colorado’s history.
Officer Nathan Woodyard Acquitted in Elijah McClain Case
Aurora, Colo., police officer Nathan Woodyard has been acquitted of all charges related to Elijah McClain’s 2019 death. The case received national attention during the protests following George Floyd’s death, sparking discussions about police use of force against Black Americans.
34-year-old Woodyard was charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless manslaughter after placing McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, in a carotid hold during an attempted arrest. At the time, McClain was returning home from a convenience store when a 911 call reported him as “sketchy.” He was wearing a ski mask due to a medical condition that made him feel cold and was unarmed.
Police tackled McClain who didn’t respond initially, he was listening to music with headphones on. After a struggle, Woodyard placed him in a carotid hold, and paramedics administered ketamine. McClain never regained consciousness after the arrest and was taken off life support three days later.
Local prosecutors initially decided not to file charges, citing an autopsy report that listed McClain’s cause and manner of death as “undetermined.” However, a revised autopsy from 2021 stated McClain died due to “complications of ketamine administration following forceful restraint.” The manner of death remains undetermined.
Woodyard’s defense team expressed relief over the verdict, despite acknowledging the tragic circumstances. They firmly believe in the just outcome for their client.
Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser stated his commitment to seeking justice for McClain and his family, emphasizing the need to prevent unlawful and unnecessary use of force leading to fatalities at the hands of law enforcement.
Woodyard is the second officer acquitted in McClain’s case. A jury found officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault last month, while ex-officer Jason Rosenblatt was found not guilty of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and second-degree assault.
Two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics will face trial this year. McClain’s case gained national attention in 2020, when the murder of Floyd by the Minneapolis police led to widespread protests and renewed scrutiny of Black individuals’ deaths in police encounters, like Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in suburban Georgia.
Since McClain’s death, Colorado has banned police chokeholds and limited the use of ketamine by paramedics during arrests. Aurora also settled a civil rights lawsuit with McClain’s family for $15 million in 2021, marking the largest settlement of its kind in Colorado history.
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