Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct quotes from court that were incorrectly attributed to the prosecutor and one of the officers who testified.
BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) — Two officers not charged in the death of Elijah McClain took the stand on day four of the Nathan Woodyard trial.
The 34-year-old suspended Aurora Police officer faces reckless manslaughter and a lesser included count of criminally negligent homicide for the 2019 death of McClain.
He’s the officer who first took McClain to the ground and applied a carotid neck hold on the 23-year-old, causing him to lose consciousness.
Aurora Police Officer Darron Dunson arrived on the scene after McClain had been stopped for walking home while hearing a runner’s mask. Dunson testified he remembered hearing McClain say at least twice that he couldn’t breathe.
When asked if he saw Officer Woodyard do anything to address the fact that McClain was having trouble breathing, Officer Dunson said, “I did not.”
Woodyard’s defense attorney suggested the officer had already left the scene and was allowing other officers to tend to McClain while they waited for paramedics to take over.
The defense team wants the jury to believe only the paramedics who injected McClain with a lethal dose of ketamine are responsible for McClain’s death.
When Officer Alicia Ward testified, she said officers appeared to hold McClain down because one of them suggested he had been assaulted by McClain.
That led to a testy exchange with one of the prosecutors after he showed Ward body camera footage of McClain struggling to breathe while he was being held down.
“I’m talking about what we just watched, what about that gives you any indication that he is trying to assault someone?” a prosecutor asked Ward on the stand.
“His movements, so like the muscle movements. I’m not saying that I know exactly what he was doing but that is indicative of the possibility that he could be trying to assault somebody,” Ward said. “People still do that when they’re handcuffed sometimes.”
“So what you just described as random clenching of his muscles. You think that that’s a sign that he’s trying to assault someone? the prosecutor countered.
“I’m saying it could be,” Ward replied.
Paramedic Aleesa Gonzalez testified that as soon as McClain was placed in the ambulance she realized he had no pulse and immediately began CPR.
McClain regained his pulse but died three days later in the hospital on Aug. 27, 2019.
Gonzalez is not who provided the ketamine to McClain, but testified it would have been helpful for paramedics to know that the patient was having trouble breathing before he was given a sedative because it could compromise his ability to breathe.
Woodyard’s trial is expected to last three weeks.
The paramedics who administered the ketamine will be on trial in November.
Earlier this month, former Officer Jason Rosenblatt was acquitted on all counts and Officer Randy Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and misdemeanor assault following a three-week jury trial. Aurora Police fired Roedema on Friday, Oct. 13, following the verdict.