Third officer charged in Elijah McClain's death found not guilty
A jury found a Colorado police officer not guilty Monday in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain.
Driving the news: Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard — who was the first on scene and put McClain in a neck hold that left him temporarily unconscious — was found not guilty on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Why it matters: Among the three officers charged in McClain's killing, Woodyard is the second to be acquitted for their use of force the night of Aug. 24, 2019, after another jury delivered a split decision in October.
Plus: The trials are testing the strength of state prosecutors' cases against the five first responders charged in McClain's death.
Details: If convicted, he would have faced up to six years in prison, the Denver Post reports.
- The jury took less than two days to reach their verdict.
The big picture: Over the nearly three-week trial, state prosecutors called in medical and criminal justice experts to convince the jury that Woodyard's neck hold contributed to McClain's death. The move, known as a carotid control hold, has since been banned in Colorado and many states across the country.
- State prosecutors also argued that the officer failed to follow his training and render appropriate aid when McClain was choking on his vomit.
- Woodyard's defense attorneys blamed McClain's death on the injection of ketamine — the powerful sedative paramedics administered — and insisted Woodyard followed protocol.
- The defense also insisted that he feared for his life after another responding officer said McClain attempted to grab one of their guns.
What they're saying: Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said during a press conference Monday afternoon the verdict was not what his office sought, but he accepted the outcome.
- "We remain undeterred in our pursuit of accountability and justice for Elijah McClain," Weiser said.
What's next: Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper, the two paramedics involved in administering the ketamine, will face trial later in November. They have pleaded not guilty.
Flashback: An amended autopsy report released in 2022 determined McClain's death was due to complications from administration of the sedative ketamine after forcible restraint.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Colorado's attorney general.