A jury acquitted a second Colorado police officer charged in the murder of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in police custody in 2019.
According to The Associated Press, a 12-person jury ruled Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard, who had put McClain in a neck hold, not guilty of homicide and manslaughter on Monday. The decision came after a week-long trial in district court in Colorado, where he risked years in jail if convicted.
McClain was heading home from a convenience shop when cops pulled him over on suspicion of being suspicious. Officers then grabbed McClain in a neck hold and handcuffed him until paramedics came and administered ketamine to him. He died few days later after being removed from life support.
Prosecutors said that Woodyard’s conduct during the encounter, such as placing him in a neck hold, led to his death. The defence, on the other hand, claimed that Woodyard was not there while McClain’s health was worsening.
According to an altered autopsy report issued last year, McClain died as a result of a ketamine injection that was too big for his stature.
Two of the three cops who have faced charges in connection with McClain’s killing have been found not guilty. In a previous trial, a third officer was convicted on two of the lesser charges he faced: negligent homicide and third-degree assault.
Two Aurora fire department paramedics are scheduled to go on trial later this month. So far, defence counsel for the cops have blamed McClain’s death on the paramedics, claiming that the injection killed him.
“There are people guilty of killing Elijah McClain, but they are not here today,” defence counsel Andrew Ho said during Woodyard’s final statements, according to the Associated Press.
In November 2021, McClain’s family reached a $15 million settlement with the city of Aurora, Colorado.