2nd police officer acquitted in death of Elijah McClain, who was put in a neck hold, given ketamine

Officer Involved In The Death Of Elijah McClain Found Not Guilty

Sheneen McClain, Elijah's mother, did not speak to reporters after the trial concluded, but left the courtroom with a raised fist.

Two of the three police officers accused of charges relating to the death in custody of Elijah McClain have been found not guilty after the jury in Nathan Woodyard’s trial returned a not guilty verdict on Nov. 6.

According to the Associated Press, Sheneen McClain, Elijah’s mother, did not speak to reporters after the trial concluded but left the courtroom with a raised fist. Someone who accompanied McClain told The AP that the verdict was “pathetic” and said the verdict was another signifier that the justice system in America is not changing anytime soon. 

MiDian Holmes, an activist who became friends with McClain after they met at a 2020 protest, told the outlet, “Her son should be alive, and everybody claims to agree with that, but for some reason, we can’t hold to account the people that took that away,” Holmes said.

“I think she understands, and she recognizes that if she can feel, she can fight. This fight is not over for Sheneen McClain. She is going to turn this pain into promise and into progress.”

For now, at least, supporters of McClain’s fight for justice can take some comfort in the fact that a third officer was convicted, albeit on lesser charges of negligent homicide and third-degree assault. Later in November, two paramedics from the Aurora Fire Department are also slated to stand trial. Phil Weiser, Colorado’s attorney general, told reporters outside of the courtroom that his office would continue to seek justice for the McClain family. 

“At this moment, I’m thinking about Sheneen McClain, who has fought hard to keep her son’s memory alive and to live on a blessing,” Weiser said. “No mother should go through what she has gone through.”

Woodyard, unlike the other officers, testified during his trial and said that he applied a technique known as a carotid control hold, which is a type of hold that applies pressure to the sides of a person’s neck to briefly render them unconscious. The hold, at the time of McClain’s arrest, was legal but has since been outlawed. 

Both trials have featured attempts by the defense to pin the death of McClain on the paramedics who administered the doses of ketamine, a chemical that functions as an anesthetic. Despite finding the officers who were on the scene when McClain died not guilty for their roles, the city of Aurora, Colorado, agreed to settle with McClain’s family for $15 million in 2019 after they brought a lawsuit against the city. According to NPR, McClain’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2020 against the city, several police officers, one of the paramedics, and the medical director of Aurora Fire Rescue.