Police officer acquitted on charges stemming from 2019 death of Colorado man

November 30, 2023

A Denver-area police officer was acquitted by a jury earlier this month in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. 

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard was found not guilty on charges of not guilty of homicide and manslaughter.

Two of three officers involved have been acquitted

Woodyard was one of three officers who arrested McClain and the second to be acquitted. A third officer, Randy Roedema, was found guilty of negligent homicide and third-degree assault while two paramedics went on trial this week.

McClain was stopped by police as he walked home from a convenience store on the evening of August 24, 2019 while wearing a mask and listening to music.

Woodyard admitted to taking McClain down after hearing Roedema say that McClain had reached for the gun of a third officer, Jason Rosenblatt.

Woodyard subdued McClain using a chokehold, a maneuver which was permitted under Colorado law but has since been banned.

Colorado attorney general disappointed with verdict

Paramedics later injected McClain with ketamine and he later went into cardiac arrest, ultimately dying in hospital three days later.

Prosecutors maintained that McClain did not reach for Rosenblatt's gun, noting that such an action can not be seen on bodycam footage.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser was disappointed with the verdict, saying, "At this moment, I’m thinking about Sheneen McClain, who has fought hard to keep her son’s memory alive and to live on a blessing."

McClain's family filed a civil rights lawsuit, which resulted in the city of Aurora agreeing to pay $15 million as part of an out-of-court settlement.

Officer reinstated with back pay

The already controversial case sparked more outrage on social media this week after The Guardian reported that Woodyard has been reinstated by the Aurora Police Department and awarded $200,000 in back pay.

Ryan Luby is a spokesperson for the city of Aurora, and he was quoted as saying that the officer "has elected to reintegrate with the APD and is currently on Restricted Duty (not in uniform, no public contact, and no enforcement actions) pending next steps in the reintegration process."

The Guardian noted that Aurora’s city charter requires it to suspend police officers without pay if they are charged with a felony and to reinstate them with back pay upon their acquittal.

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