Aurora, Colorado, police officer Nathan Woodyard was found not guilty Monday of recklessly contributing to the 2019 in-custody death of Elijah McClain after a jury deliberated for about a day.
Prosecutors say that Woodyard gave the 23-year-old man a carotid hold and failed to provide proper follow-up care while he was detained on the ground and unable to breathe, Colorado Public Radio reports.
Jurors, though, apparently believed Woodyard’s own argument under oath that he did what he was trained to do after the carotid hold — a police maneuver that cuts blood flow off to the brain and briefly causes unconsciousness. It is now banned in Colorado but was an accepted use of force at the time in Aurora.
Woodyard said he placed McClain in a recovery position, called medics and then trusted officers and paramedics to care for McClain while he composed himself that August night in 2019.
He is the second officer acquitted in the incident that roiled the Aurora Police Department and sparked statewide police reform, including a ban on carotid holds.
One officer, Randy Roedema, was convicted last month of criminally negligent homicide in McClain’s death.