Denver-Area Officer Acquitted in Elijah McClain’s 2019 Death
Acquittal in Elijah McClain Case Sparks Controversy
According to source, in a case that has garnered national attention, a second Denver-area police officer, Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard was acquitted on Monday in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. McClain, a 23-year-old Black man was stopped by the police while walking home from a convenience store and was put in a neck hold during the encounter that ultimately led to the death of Elijah McClain. He was also injected with ketamine during this incident.
The jury found Woodyard not guilty of homicide and manslaughter following a week-long trial in state district court, a trial focused on the death of Elijah. His acquittal came after another officer was convicted of homicide in relation to the death of Elijah McClain and another was acquitted in a previous trial connected to the same case. Unlike the officers in the first trial Woodyard took the stand during his trial, stating that he used the neck hold because he feared for his life after hearing Elijah McClain’s statements.
Elijah McClain died as a direct consequence of being placed in the neck hold, pinned to the ground by officers, and then injected with an overdose of ketamine by paramedics, making it a tragic death of Elijah McClain. Defense attorneys emphasized that Woodyard was not present during crucial moments when the condition of Elijah McClain was deteriorating, as shown in body camera footage documenting the death of Elijah McClain.
National Outcry and Legal Reforms Triggered by McClain and Floyd Cases
The case gained significant attention during the protests following George Floyd’s death in 2020, as the pleas of Elijah McClain, another victim of police brutality, were captured on police body camera footage highlighting the tragic death of Elijah McClain. The grand jury indicted the officers and paramedics in 2021 after the initial prosecutor decided against criminal charges in 2019 due to uncertainty about the cause of the death of Elijah.
The deaths of individuals like McClain and Floyd have led to legislative changes in more than two dozen states including Colorado which has imposed restrictions on the use of neck holds by law enforcement seeking to prevent incidents like the death of Elijah McClain.
Colorado also now advises paramedics not to administer ketamine to individuals suspected of having a disputed condition known as excited delirium a move aimed at avoiding another tragedy like the death of Elijah McClain. McClain’s parents reached a $15 million settlement with the city of Aurora in 2021 following the death of Elijah McClain.