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Second Colorado officer acquitted for 2019 killing of Elijah McClain

A Colorado jury on Monday acquitted Nathan Woodyard, a police officer concerned within the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man.

McClain’s demise helped ignite nationwide protests in opposition to police brutality and racism in 2020, and helped affect the state to ban sure police neck restraint methods.

The resolution follows a state ruling final month wherein one other officer concerned within the encounter was acquitted, whereas a 3rd was discovered responsible of criminally negligent murder and third-degree assault.

Police stopped McClain, a 23-year-old therapeutic massage therapist, on 24 August, 2019, after a 911 caller reported a “sketchy” particular person strolling residence from a comfort retailer. He was not suspected of any crime.

Officers put the Colorado man in a high-risk carotid maintain neck restraint, knocking him unconscious.

He was later injected by paramedics with ketamine, a powerful sedative, and died within the hospital few days later.

Nathan Woodyard was the primary officer to cease the 23-year-old, placing his palms on the unarmed man with out explaining the explanation for the cease.

Mr Woodyard, one in every of a number of officers who tried to place McClain in a carotid maintain, is at the moment suspended. The officer left the quick space close to the 23-year-old and walked in regards to the scene of the cease as different officers bodily struggled with McClain, in line with physique digital camera footage.

The officer, who had been on the Aurora police drive for about two years on the time of the cease, argued that the paramedics who sedated McClain have been liable for his demise.

“There are people guilty of killing Elijah McClain but they are not here today,” an legal professional for the officer instructed jurors. “Nathan Woodyard did not kill Elijah McClain.”

The Adams County coroner held in a revised 2022 report that McClain died from ketamine administration following a forcible restraint, however that the final word reason for demise was “undetermined.”

At trial, prosecutors introduced forth their very own knowledgeable who argued the mixture of neck holds and sedation killed McClain.

“Both the restraint and the ketamine is what killed Elijah McClain,” forensic pathologist Roger Mitchell testified.

The state additionally argued the officer did not comply with APD coaching encouraging empathy, listening, mandated de-escalation, and medical follow-up after inserting somebody in a carotid maintain, which briefly cuts off the blood provide to their mind.

“Four years later he has empathy,” state legal professional Jason Slothouber argued. “But the version of the defendant that Elijah McClain got is the one who caused his death by ignoring his training, ignoring Elijah’s claims and pleas for help, that he can’t breathe and that is exactly the story he was trained to avoid. That is why he’s guilty.”

On the stand, Officer Woodyard stated he administered the possibly deadly neck maintain as a result of he heard a fellow officer say McClain reached for his gun, although prosecutors say the 23-year-old by no means tried to seize any weapon and that police physique cameras fell on the bottom through the encounter, eliminating potential proof.

“I was expecting to get shot and I thought I’d never see my wife again,” he stated.

Witnesses testified that after McClain regained consciousness, he threw up right into a face masks he was sporting, and cried for assist, probably aspirating a dangrous quantity of vomit.

The officer, who ripped off the masks, then left McClain within the care of his fellow officers and stepped away to compose himself.

“After taking off the mask and getting him in the recovery position, he was talking, forming complete sentences,” Mr Woodyard testified. “He seemed coherent.”

McClain’s household was seen strolling out of the Adams County courtroom after the decision on Monday holding their fists excessive.

“We remain undeterred in our pursuit of accountability and justice for Elijah McClain and his family and friends,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser stated in a press release to The Denver Post. “I’m thinking of Sheneen McClain, who has fought hard to keep her son’s memory alive. No mother should go through what she has. We must do all we can to stop the unlawful and unnecessary use of force that can result in people dying at the hands of law enforcement.”

In 2021, the town of Aurora paid $15m to McClain’s household to settle a civil rights lawsuit.

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