Editor’s Note: A line in this article has been updated to correctly reference the trial’s outcome.
AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The three officers charged in the death of Elijah McClain have faced their day in court, which has some questioning their role, if any, within the Aurora Police Department.
The big question surrounds whether suspended Officer Nathan Woodyard will return to the department after Monday’s not-guilty verdict.
Jason Rosenblatt was fired from Aurora Police shortly after the 2019 incident for his role in mocking McClain’s death. A jury acquitted the former officer in October. Randy Roedema was fired three weeks ago after a jury in the same trial found him guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault.
Nathan Woodyard, the officer who placed McClain in a carotid neck hold, was suspended from the department pending the outcome of his trial. On Monday afternoon, Woodyard was acquitted on charges of reckless manslaughter and the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.
On Tuesday, the Aurora unit of the NAACP made an announcement demanding that the city of Aurora not reinstate Woodyard to the department. They’re also requesting that his POST certification, short for Peace Officer Standards and Training, be revoked immediately.
NAACP: Community ‘would not feel safe’ around officer
Members of the civil rights organization shared the same sentiment as Elijah’s mother, Sheneen McClain, and that’s one of disappointment after the verdict was delivered.
Aurora’s NAACP president, Omar Montgomery, said although Woodyard was found not guilty by a jury, his “type of behavior” is not welcome in the department and will only put a scar on the relationships they’re working to rebuild with law enforcement.
“We continue to do what we can to get rid of officers that have that mindset,” Montgomery said. “Let’s think about it. Eight seconds. He didn’t get to know Elijah McClain. He didn’t have a conversation with Elijah McClain. He didn’t treat Elijah McClain like a human being.”
Montgomery goes on to say that he’s been speaking with Aurora community members, and many of them are fearful of Woodyard’s possible return to the department.
“The community members I know would not feel well and would not feel safe,” Montgomery said. “That’s why we’re asking, that’s why we’re demanding, that’s why we’re requesting, and that’s why we’re out here voicing our opinion that Woodyard should not be in Aurora Police Department or any police department.”
The unit’s president said he wants to celebrate officers who lift the community and show up each day to save lives. Montgomery also urges every Coloradan to vote and pay attention to local politics.
Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain NAACP, which represents the state of Colorado, released a statement to FOX31 in support of the Aurora chapter. Press secretary Rashad Younger released the following.
“Rocky Mountain NAACP State Conference is disturbed by hearing that Nathan Woodyard was found not guilty in his participation of the murder of Elijah McClain. We stand in support of Elijah’s mother, Sheneen McClain, and his family. To lose a son and then to hear that the Scales of Justice are not in your favor is disheartening. Even though our community did not receive a guilty verdict, we are working with Aurora NAACP to ensure there are measures put in place to restrict Woodyard from being a member of law enforcement.Rocky Mountain NAACP
Elijah did not deserve to have his life ended prematurely and it is up to us all to work and prevent murders like this from law enforcement. But, most importantly make sure that all people receive justice when wronged.”
When could acquitted Officer Woodyard be reinstated?
FOX31 reached out to the city of Aurora for clarity on the process and to see if Woodyard would return to the department.
A spokesperson said there are many variables at play, and some of those are out of the city’s control. The spokesperson also said there is an outlined process in the charter language that they’re currently working to complete over the next few days and will provide more information as it becomes available.
The city did not comment in response to the Aurora NAACP’s demand of not reinstating Woodyard.