‘It Lets Us Down’: Elijah McClain’s Mother Loses Faith In Justice System After Second Aurora Police Officer Acquitted In Black Man’s 2019 Death

After a two-week trial, an Aurora, Colorado, police officer who violently detained Elijah McClain during the young Black man’s fatal encounter with police was found not guilty on Monday on all charges related to McClain’s death.

After the verdict, Nathan Woodyard’s duty as an officer will be reviewed after the department suspended him without pay pending the trial’s outcome.

Woodyard was the last of three Aurora Police Department officers on trial in McClain’s death and the second to be acquitted of his death.

Elijah McClain’s Mother Loses Faith In Justice System After Second Aurora Police Officer Acquitted In Black Man's 2019 Death
Elijah McClain, left, Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard, right (Photos: YouTube screenshots)

McClain met his demise after three officers stopped him as he was walking home from a store before using a dangerous chokehold and medics administering an even more dangerous sedative that caused the 140-pound McClain to go into cardiac arrest — from which he never recovered. A 911 caller had reported McClain as suspicious because he was wearing a ski mask and gesticulating with his hands as he walked home.


Woodyard was charged but found not guilty of reckless manslaughter and the lesser included charge of criminally negligent homicide on Monday, Nov. 6, around 3 p.m.

The trial centered on what exactly killed McClain, his interaction with Woodyard and medical professionals.

Woodyard’s defense contended that his actions, though forceful and possibly rushed, were not the direct cause of the young man’s death. The lawyers pointed to the Adams County coroner’s report.

“After review of all material available to us at this time, it is my opinion that this 23-year-old, African American male, Elijah McClain, died of complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint,” the coroner’s office explained.

A jury deliberated on the facts for two days before coming to a unanimous verdict. They did not believe his involvement contributed to the 23-year-old’s death.

While the acquittal brings relief to Woodyard, who had been in flux regarding his career since 2019, it is devastating news to McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain.

In an interview with local station KUSA after the verdict, she said she has lost faith in the American justice system.

“It lets us down, not just people of color. It lets down everybody. They don’t do the right thing. They always do the bare minimum,” she said.

She believes that everyone who was connected to the arrest that took her son’s life should be held accountable.

“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,” she added. “So, it’s just unfortunate that they are placing the blame and passing the buck.”

Woodyard did testify during the trial that he wishes he’d made different decisions that night regarding how he engaged her son.

In October, a jury rendered a split verdict for the two other officers charged in the case. Officer Randy Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault, while Officer Jason Rosenblatt was acquitted of all charges.

Later in November, the two paramedics associated with this case will face separate trials for administering ketamine to McClain, a potent sedative occasionally used on patients they deem agitated. Reports have already noted that the amount of ketamine given to the young man was too much for his size, a factor that possibly contributed to his death.

Activists leveraged the circumstances around his death, notably Woodyard’s carotid chokehold, to drive significant police reforms in Colorado in 2020. Now, that particular chokehold is prohibited by law enforcement in the state.

Trending Now:

Never miss a story — sign up for ATLANTA BLACK STAR’S free daily newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest developments, from top news headlines to celebrity news.

Back to top