On Monday, a Colorado jury found Aurora police officer Nathan Woodyard not guilty of all charges related to the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died after he was wrestled to the ground by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics, CNN reports.
Woodyard pleaded not guilty to reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges stemming from McClains’s arrest on August 24, 2019, while he was walking home from a grocery store.
Body camera footage captured the incident and showed that police officers wrestled McClain to the ground and placed him in a carotid hold before paramedics injected him with ketamine. He went into cardiac arrest and ultimately passed away three days later.
“Today’s verdict is not the one we hoped for, but we respect the jury system and accept this outcome. I thank the jurors for serving and performing their civic duty,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement on Monday.
“We remain undeterred in our pursuit of accountability and justice for Elijah McClain and his family and friends,” Weiser later said, in part. “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.”
The young man’s death has been the subject of widespread public attention and calls for justice due to the circumstances surrounding his encounter with the police and the use of ketamine. Woodyard is the second officer to be acquitted in McClain’s death. As ESSENCE previously reported, a third officer, Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. He faces up to three years in prison.
Elijah McClain’s mother expressed her disappointment and lack of faith in the justice system following the officer’s acquittal. “It lets us down, not just people of color. It lets down everybody,” she said. “They don’t do the right thing. They always do the bare minimum,” she told local news outlet KUSA.
Sheneen McClain also expressed frustration that those involved in her son’s death had not faced more accountability. Two paramedics who were charged in connection with his death were set to go on trial in the coming weeks.
“It’s just unfortunate that the people that stopped my son brutalized my son, tortured my son, get away with murder, and their passing on what they did to the medical professionals that still were supposed to do their job,” she said. “Nobody did. So it’s just unfortunate that they are placing the blame and passing the buck.”