Justice Denied: Elijah McClain’s Tragic Death – Cop Acquitted Again in 2nd Trial of Police Officers

A jury on Monday acquitted Nathan Woodyard on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the second trial concerning the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain following an altercation with Aurora, Colorado, police.

Woodyard was the first police officer on the scene in August 2019 and put McClain in a carotid hold. He pleaded not guilty.

In closing arguments, the prosecution argued that the carotid hold contributed to McClain’s death. They also claimed that if Woodyard had followed his training, he would have known how to respond to McClain’s pleas for help.

McClain told officers he was having trouble breathing during the encounter, and he later choked on his vomit while restrained, as revealed in the previous trial.

“This trial is about the defendant and his teammates’ indifference to Elijah McClain’s suffering,” said Assistant Attorney General Ann Joyce during opening arguments.

The defense argued that the ketamine administered by the EMTs that night was responsible for McClain’s death.

“The evidence suggests that Nathan was unaware of the paramedics’ actions,” said defense attorney Andrew Ho.

McClain was stopped by police on his way home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019. A passerby called 911 to report McClain as acting “sketchy” with a ski mask on; however, there was no weapon and no danger at the time.

McClain wore a ski mask due to his anemia, a blood condition that can cause sensitivity to cold.

When officers arrived, they stopped McClain, claiming he was acting suspicious.

In body camera footage, McClain can be heard asserting his right to go home.

Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid hold, and he and the other officers moved McClain to the grass and restrained him.

McClain pleaded with the officers, saying he couldn’t breathe.

“I’m so sorry. I have no gun, I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do fighting. Why are you taking me?” McClain can be heard saying.

“I can’t breathe,” McClain said, according to the body camera footage, repeating these words.

EMTs gave McClain ketamine for rapid tranquilization, per department policy, and he had a heart attack in the ambulance, as confirmed by investigators.

McClain was declared brain-dead days later and died on Aug. 30, 2019.

An amended autopsy report listed McClain’s cause of death as complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint. The manner of death remained listed as undetermined.

Woodyard’s employment with the police force is pending the outcome of his trial.

In the first trial, officer Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree. He awaits sentencing and faces imprisonment and fines. His employment was terminated following his conviction.

Officer Jason Rosenblatt was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter, assault in the second degree, and criminally negligent homicide. His employment was terminated in 2020.

ABC News’ Aisha Frazier contributed to this report.


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