Elijah McClain’s mother wiped tears from her eyes as a verdict was read Monday acquitting a second Denver-area police officer in the 2019 death of her son. Two of three officers to face trial so far avoided prison time after being found not guilty, leaving Sheneen McClain and police reform advocates still searching for justice. Elijah McClain’s death fueled national outrage about racial injustice in policing after the 23-year-old Black man was put in a neck hold and injected with an overdose of ketamine after police stopped him as he walked home from a convenience store, the Associated Press reports. In the most recent trial, a 12-person jury found Aurora officer Nathan Woodyard, who put McClain in the neck hold, not guilty of homicide and manslaughter following a weekslong trial in state district court. He faced years in prison if convicted.
Sheneen McClain sat in the front row of the courtroom and left with a fist raised high, just as she did after the first trial last month against two other officers. She declined to comment, but a supporter who accompanied her called the verdict “pathetic” and a sign that the justice system was not changing. A third officer was convicted in the earlier trial of the lesser charges he faced — negligent homicide and third-degree assault. Two paramedics from the Aurora fire department are awaiting trial later this month. Defense lawyer Megan Downing said, “We believe it was the right verdict, not an easy one.” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said outside the courthouse with the prosecuting attorneys by his side that his office was undeterred in its pursuit of justice for Elijah McClain.