In the trial regarding the death of Elijah McClain, a police officer testified on Wednesday that he applied a neck hold on McClain because he feared for his life after another officer claimed McClain had grabbed for their gun. However, prosecutors have disputed this claim, stating that there is no evidence of McClain attempting to grab an officer’s gun in the body camera footage, which becomes shaky and dark before the cameras fall off during the ensuing struggle.
Nathan Woodyard, an Aurora police officer, was the first to approach McClain after a 911 caller reported him as “sketchy” for waving his arms while wearing earbuds and listening to music. Prosecutors argue that Woodyard placed his hands on McClain within eight seconds of arriving at the scene without introducing himself or explaining his intentions. McClain, taken aback, tried to continue walking.
Woodyard testified that he and two other officers, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, had McClain against a wall when he heard McClain say, “I intend to take my power back.” Roedema then claimed that McClain had grabbed Rosenblatt’s gun. Woodyard responded by applying a carotid control hold, temporarily rendering McClain unconscious. This technique was allowed at the time but has since been banned in Colorado and other states following the killing of George Floyd.
Prosecutors argue that the neck hold caused medical problems for McClain, and the police officers and paramedics failed to provide assistance. They further claim that the administration of the sedative ketamine by paramedics worsened McClain’s condition, ultimately leading to his death. Two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec, are scheduled to face trial later this month.
During cross-examination, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jason Slothouber pointed out that Woodyard called Rosenblatt away from body cameras upon his return to the scene. Slothouber also highlighted that Woodyard did not intervene to help McClain when Roedema discussed moving him to a stretcher in a position that could impede his breathing.
The trial continues as prosecutors portray Woodyard as abandoning McClain after using excessive force, prioritizing administrative concerns over McClain’s well-being.