Aurora police officer acquitted in Elijah McClain’s death to get more than $200,000 in back pay

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Suspended Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard, right, arrives at court in the Adams County Justice Center Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, to hear a jury’s verdict on his role in the death of Elijah McClain, Woodyard was found not guilty.

Updated at 4:48 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023

One of the officers acquitted in the death of Elijah McClain is returning to the Aurora Police Department to work and will receive $212,546 in back pay, city officials said.

Nathan Woodyard, 34, will start a “reintegration” process with the agency, where he has been suspended without pay since 2021 after he was indicted in McClain’s death.

Woodyard was one of the five people, three officers and two paramedics, charged in the death of McClain, a Black 23-year-old massage therapist, who was walking home from a convenience store when violently stopped and restrained. An Adams County jury found him not guilty of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide earlier this month.

In an earlier trial, another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was also acquitted in McClain’s death, but he was fired from APD before he was criminally charged. The third officer, Randy Roedema, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. He will be sentenced in January and will lose his peace officer’s certification.

“Consistent with the requirements set forth in the Aurora City Charter, Nathan Woodyard is no longer suspended without pay following his acquittal on Nov. 6,” said Ryan Luby, a spokesman for the city of Aurora, in a statement sent late Monday. “He has elected to reintegrate with the APD.”

Luby said Woodyard is on “restricted duty” —  which means he won’t be in uniform, he won’t have contact with the public and won’t have any enforcement powers. But he declined to say how long those restrictions would last, only that it’s all up to Aurora Police Chief Art Acevedo.

“Mr. Woodyard would need to undergo reintegration for a period of time as numerous policies and practices at the Aurora Police Department have changed since he was placed on administrative leave without pay in Sept. 2021,” Luby’s statement said. “Upon successful completion of the reintegration process and after accounting for any other circumstances that may arise, Mr. Woodyard would be eligible for reassignment to a position within the department at the chief’s discretion.”

Acevedo didn’t have any immediate comment on Woodyard’s return to the department, though he told the Aurora Sentinel that Woodyard likely wouldn’t be put out on duty while he was in charge.

The city’s charter rules require back pay on unpaid suspensions if there is an acquittal.

A third trial for the two paramedics also charged in McClain’s death will begin Wednesday morning in Adams County. A jury was seated on Tuesday afternoon.

Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec each face several charges related to the large dose of ketamine they administered on the scene without apparently checking on McClain’s condition first. They are on unpaid leave from Aurora Fire Rescue.

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