Aurora, Colorado, police officer Nathan Woodyard was found not guilty by a jury of reckless manslaughter and a lesser-included charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Elijah McClain, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man who died after he was subdued by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics in 2019.
Woodyard has pleaded not guilty to charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with McClain’s death. The officer remains suspended from the department without pay, pending the outcome of the trial.
The charges stem from the arrest of McClain on August 24, 2019, when officers responded to a call about a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask, according to the indictment. The officers confronted McClain, a massage therapist, musician, and animal lover, who was walking home from a convenience store carrying a plastic bag with iced tea.
In an interaction captured on body camera footage, police wrestled McClain to the ground and placed him in a carotid hold, and paramedics later injected him with the powerful sedative ketamine. He suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital and was pronounced dead three days later.
Prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, but the case received renewed scrutiny following the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in the spring of 2020. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed a special prosecutor to reexamine the case, and in 2021 a grand jury indicted Woodyard, two other officers and two paramedics in McClain’s death.