Officer who put Elijah McClain in chokehold returns to work and CU Boulder scholarship program under fire

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Officer Acquitted In Elijah McClain Trial Returns To Aurora PD

The police officer acquitted in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain has returned to work at the Aurora Police Department.

The Denver Post says Nathan Woodyard, who was found not guilty on all charges against him earlier this month, will receive more than $200,000 in back pay.

For now, he is not wearing a uniform or interacting with the public. City officials also say he is not yet allowed to enforce any laws.

Under the Aurora city charter, Woodyard must undergo a reintegration process that includes training to learn rules that have changed since his suspension without pay more than two years ago. It isn’t known how long the process will take.

Woodyard was one of three officers who restrained McClain after a person called authorities, saying the 23-year-old was sketchy as he walked home from a convenience store. After Woodyard placed McClain in a carotid neck hold, two paramedics injected him with the sedative ketamine. He lost consciousness and died several days later.

The two paramedics are currently on trial for their roles in McClain’s death.

Former officer Randy Roedema was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and third degree assault last month. He is still faces sentencing while Jason Rosenblatt was acquitted on all charges. Rosenblatt was fired, but is suing the city.

 

Suncor Refinery Investigation Uncovers 

A report obtained by The Denver Post shows that a lack of equipment inspection caused a fire which led to two injuries at Suncor Energy on Christmas Eve last year.

According to the Post, an investigation conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – or OSHA – found that the fire started when a vapor cloud leaked from an unused pump valve. The vapor cloud valve exploded and two workers were injured. One of them was hospitalized with extreme facial burns.

The fire burned for six hours in the Commerce City refinery.

OSHA says employees were at higher risk of injury due to exposure of hazardous materials for seven years without proper inspection of equipment.

Within the same week of the fire, Suncor shut down due to extreme temperature drops that caused operational issues. The Post reports that the reasons for the shut down were cloaked in secrecy.

Suncor remained non-operational until April. In June, they fined the refinery over $15,000 for violation of federal safety standards.

According to The Denver Post, OSHA excluded a significant amount of information from the original report. Both OSHA and Suncor officials have yet to comment on the situation.

Suncor is currently undergoing another investigation. This time, the Air Control Division is investigating the refinery’s violation of benzene, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide emissions.

 

Alleged CU Boulder Discriminatory Scholarship Program

The U.S. Department of Education received a complaint Monday that labeled one of CU Boulder and CU Denver’s scholarship programs as discriminatory.

The McNair Scholars Program provides financial aid to doctoral students. To qualify, students must be low income, first generation or ethnically underrepresented.

The complaint filed by the Equal Protection Project says the program discriminates against white and Asian students, who don’t “fit” within the underrepresented definition, as described in the application.

EPP also claims the McNair Scholars program violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Department of Education has yet to decide whether an investigation is necessary in the coming months.

 

Woman Sues Pueblo Police Officer For Lack of Reporting

A Pueblo police officer and chief are being sued for failing to report the use of excessive force.

The lawsuit was filed Sunday by Christy Gonzalez, who police suspected of stealing a truck in February of 2022.

A police report says Gonzalez failed to pull over when Corporal Bennie Villanueva spotted her in the vehicle a few weeks later.

After Gonzales ran out of gas, she got out of the truck and Villanueva, along with a second officer forced Gonzales to the ground.

According to body cam footage,  Villanueva shocked Gonzales with a tase. The district attorney issued a formal investigation followed by an official reprimand.

The lawsuit says that the department failed to report the excessive force findings to the state oversight board, which could have resulted in the revocation of Villanueva’s law enforcement certification.

The suit also says Christy Gonzales still has numbness and a lack of motor control as a result of being tased.

 

Council Members Aim To Ban Encampment Sweeps

Denver City Council members proposed an amendment to the current cold weather shelter rules during a council meeting Monday.

Council members Shontel Lewis and Sarah Parady introduced the proposal that would open cold weather shelters in Denver when temperatures reach 32 degrees or lower. Currently, city rules allow shelters to open when temperatures reach 20 degrees or lower.

The proposal would also ban encampment sweeps when they’re scheduled for days when freezing temperatures are expected, unless the unhoused people living within the camp experience a greater danger than weather and must leave the area.

Picture of Ivonne Olivas

Ivonne Olivas

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