A jury on Monday acquitted Nathan Woodyard of involuntary manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the second trial regarding the death of Elijah McClain, 23, following an altercation with police in Aurora, Colorado.
Woodyard was the first police officer on scene in August 2019 and placed McClain in a carotid hold. He pleaded not guilty.
“We believe the verdict is the right one, although it is not easy,” Megan Downing, Woodyard’s lawyer, said in a statement, adding: “We are grateful for the verdict and the time it took. was consecrated.”
“Today’s verdict is not what we hoped for, but we respect the jury system and accept this outcome,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in part in a statement. “I thank the jurors for serving and fulfilling their civic duty.”
“We are undeterred in our pursuit of accountability and justice for Elijah McClain, his family and friends,” Weiser added.
In closing arguments, the prosecution argued that the carotid hold that Woodyard placed McClain in contributed to McClain’s death. The prosecution also argued that if Woodyard had followed what he was taught during his training, he would have known how to respond to McClain’s cries for help.
McClain told officers during their confrontation that he was having trouble breathing, and he later choked on his vomit while being restrained, the earlier trial revealed.
“This trial is about the defendant and his teammates doing nothing to help Elijah McClain. This trial is about their continued insensitivity and indifference to Mr. McClain’s suffering,” Assistant Attorney General Ann Joyce said during the hearing. the opening argument.
The defense argued that ketamine administered by paramedics that night was responsible for McClain’s death.
“The evidence cannot rule out the real possibility that Nathan did not know the paramedics were going to arrive and overdose,” defense attorney Andrew Ho said.
McClain was stopped by police while walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019. A passerby called 911 to report that McClain was acting “sketchy” while wearing a ski mask; however, the caller stated that there was no weapon and no one was in danger at the time.
McClain was wearing a ski mask at the time because, according to his family, he suffered from anemia, a blood disease that can make people cold more easily.
When officers arrived on scene, they told McClain they had the right to arrest him because he “was suspicious.”
In police camera footage, McClain can be heard telling police that he was on his way home and that “I have the right to go where I’m going.”
Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid hold and he and the two other officers at the scene forcibly moved McClain to the grass and restrained him.
McClain can be heard pleading with officers in police body camera footage, saying he can’t breathe properly.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t have a gun, I don’t do that kind of thing. I don’t fight. Why are you taking me?” McClain can be heard saying in the body camera footage.
“I can’t breathe,” McClain said, according to body camera footage. He repeated these words several times.
When paramedics arrived on scene, McClain was injected with 500 milligrams of ketamine for “rapid tranquilization to minimize struggle time,” per department policy, and was loaded into an ambulance where he was had a heart attack, according to investigators. .
McClain was declared brain dead a few days later and died on August 30, 2019.
McClain’s cause of death, which was previously listed as “undetermined,” was listed in an amended autopsy report as “complications related to the administration of ketamine following forcible restraint.” The circumstances of the death remained “undetermined,” as in the initial report.
Woodyard’s employment by police is subject to a city charter pending the outcome of his trial.
In the first trial related to McClain’s death, Officer Randy Roedema was convicted Oct. 12 of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. He will be sentenced in January and faces up to five years in prison and a fine of more than $100,000. His police employment ended following his conviction last month.
Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was found not guilty of charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and criminally negligent homicide. His employment with the police ended in 2020.
ABC News’ Aisha Frazier contributed to this report.