He's clear! Aurora police officer found not guilty in charges related to death of Elijah McClain

ADAMS COUNTY, CO - After deliberations behind closed doors, a jury has found Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard not guilty in the death of Elijah McClain. 

This verdict came just a few weeks after Officer Randy Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault in the death of McClain. 

In the case against Woodyard, prosecutors stated that he put McClain in a carotid hold and then failed to provide proper follow-up care while the man was detained on the ground, stating he was unable to breathe. 

Under oath, Woodyard argued that he did what he was trained to do after utilizing the carotid hold. This type of behavior management tactic has since been banned in the state of Colorado, but it was an accepted used of force option within the Aurora Police Department at the time of the incident with McClain.

According to Fox59, Woodyard's defense lawyers argued that the officer's use of the carotid hold was not what ultimately killed McClain and instead pointed to the paramedics who injected McClain with ketamine. 

The Adams County Coroner's Office, which were the ones to perform McClain's autopsy, said in its initial report that the manner of death was "undetermined." Later, the report was revised, but the manner of death still remains undetermined. 

The coroner's office said, "After review of all material available to us at this time, it is my opinion that this 23-year-old, African American, male, Elijah McClain, died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint."

Woodyard did take the stand and testified in his own defense, saying that he was remorseful for his actions and if he was in the same scenario, he would have done things differently. 

He said that when he walked away from the scene, after the paramedics took over, McClain was still awake and communicating with officers. 

During the three-week trial, prosecutors failed to prove to jurors that Woodyard, who had been on the police force at the time for about two years, had ample training and experience to know what to do when approaching McClain that night after receiving a 911 call on a suspicious person.

The prosecution stressed during the trial that Woodyard had placed McClain in the carotid hold only moments after confronting him. The prosecution called Dr. David Beuther, a pulmonologist to the stand.

Dr. Beuther stated that the carotid hold set off a chain of events that made it harder for McClain to recover. He testified that McClain was put in a position that made it difficult for him to breathe, which caused him to choke on his vomit before the ketamine injection.

Woodyard was the third officer to go on trial. Roedema was found guilty at the end of October and the other officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was acquitted of all charges. 

Roedema remains suspended from the Aurora Police Department, but Rosenblatt was fired on July 3, 2020, for his involvement in a text photo scandal where officers reenacted McClain's death scene. Two other officers involved in that incident were fired and a third officer quit.

Two Aurora Fire paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were also charged in McClain's death. Their trial is set to begin in late November 2023. 
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