DENVER (KDVR) — Nathan Woodyard, an Aurora Police officer on trial for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, took the stand Wednesday afternoon.
Woodyard, who is suspended from the force, is charged with reckless manslaughter of the 23-year-old McClain. The trial began Oct. 17.
McClain died in 2019 after he was stopped by police while walking home from a convenience store. He was thrown to the ground and held down before being injected by paramedics with ketamine, a sedative.
The prosecution argued that McClain’s death was put in motion by Woodyard’s carotid neck hold, as well as physical force used by him and other officers to hold him still.
‘I was expecting to get shot,’ officer testifies
Woodyard testified the situation escalated when one of the other officers on the scene claimed McClain grabbed for an officer’s gun. Woodyard said that’s when he decided to apply the carotid hold.
“Leading up to the carotid, there was a lot I didn’t know. I didn’t know if a gun was out of the holster. I didn’t know if at any second it’d start going off,” Woodyard testified. “I was expecting to get shot, and I thought I’d never see my wife again.”
Woodyard said he removed McClain’s mask from his face to help him breathe. He said when the sergeant arrived on the scene, he walked away from McClain because he was too shaken up from the encounter.
“It was very emotional. I was very scared in that moment,” he testified. “I didn’t feel in my current state of mind I could carry on handling this call.”
During cross-examination, the prosecution suggested Woodyard escalated the situation by grabbing McClain just moments after arriving. Woodyard admitted if he could go back, he would do things differently.
Pathologists testify in officer’s trial
A forensic pathologist called by the prosecution argued that the manner of McClain’s death was homicide and that Woodyard’s actions contributed to his death.
However, the defense has argued that the paramedics were to blame for McClain’s death. A separate forensic pathologist called by the defense testified that the neck hold did not contribute to McClain’s death.
Woodyard is the third officer to go on trial. In a separate trial that ended in October, a jury found Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault.
The other officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was acquitted of all charges.
Two paramedics, Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec, are also charged in McClain’s death. Their trial is slated to begin in November.