Attorneys are set to deliver opening statements on Wednesday in the jury trial of Aurora police officers Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, who are facing charges in connection with the death of Elijah McClain in 2019. Roedema, 41, and Woodyard, 34, are each charged with reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and assault. They are the first two of five individuals indicted in the case.
The incident occurred on August 24, 2019, when McClain, 23, was walking home from a gas station in Aurora wearing a black ski mask. A 911 call was made to report a suspicious person, leading the responding officers to detain McClain. During the encounter, McClain was forcefully restrained, handcuffed, and injected with the sedative ketamine by a paramedic. He suffered cardiac arrest and was later declared brain dead on August 30, 2019.
McClain’s death gained national attention following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 and sparked protests in Colorado. The case prompted changes to state law regarding the use of force by police and led to reforms within the Aurora Police Department. The city settled a lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents for an undisclosed amount.
Initially, the cause of McClain’s death was deemed “undetermined” by the county coroner. However, after renewed scrutiny in 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser as a special prosecutor to re-examine the case. A grand jury subsequently issued indictments against the involved police officers and paramedics.
Officer Nathan Woodyard, accused of placing McClain in a chokehold that caused him to lose consciousness, is scheduled to stand trial separately in October. Paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, who administered the ketamine injection, are set for a joint jury trial in November.
The trial for Roedema and Woodyard began with jury selection on Friday and is expected to conclude with opening statements on Wednesday.