Troopers, officers cleared in 2017 Fairbanks shooting
State prosecutors have legally cleared the five Fairbanks police officers and Alaska State Troopers who shot and killed a suicidal man on Christmas Eve, saying he posed a threat the moment he raised a weapon toward them.
The state Office of Special Prosecutions sent a letter Wednesday to troopers’ director, Col. Hans Brinke, laying out the events which led to 20-year-old Fairbanks resident Cody Eyre’s death.
Troopers Elondre Johnson, Christine Joslin and James Thomas, as well as Fairbanks officers Tyler Larimer and Richard Sweet, all opened fire on Eyre on the Steese Highway near the Johansen Expressway. He later died at a Fairbanks hospital.
According to Assistant Attorney General Paul Miovas Jr., 911 dispatchers first received a report at about 6:20 p.m. that night that Eyre was “on Facebook Live threatening to commit suicide.”
“The caller indicated that Cody was likely in Fairbanks and that he had what appeared to be a .22 revolver with one bullet loaded in it,” Miovas wrote. “The caller stated that Cody said he was going to kill himself and then the live feed from Facebook ended.”
Dispatchers subsequently received a call from Eyre’s mother, who confirmed that he was armed. She said he had also been drinking, and was upset because he had just broken up with his girlfriend. Troopers and officers caught up with Eyre walking along the Steese Highway toward Lazelle Road.
The troopers and officers walked with Eyre, in a minutes-long encounter recorded on their body cameras, and repeatedly told Eyre to drop the gun he was holding in his hand. Miovas said he refused, however, and “vacillated between pointing the gun at his own head and dropping the gun to his side.”
The group became increasingly concerned as Eyre approached a residential area off Lazelle Road, continuing to engage him verbally.
“Cody was still very agitated, but he told the officers ‘I don’t want to hurt any of you,’ and one of the troopers responded, ‘We don’t want to hurt you,’” Miovas wrote. “Cody made repeated threats to kill himself and refused to drop his gun.”
Eyre stopped to kneel and threaten to kill himself again, then stood up. He asked the troopers and officers to turn off a spotlight which was trained on him, but they refused.
The troopers and officers shot Eyre when he turned the gun on them and issued a profane threat, Miovas said. Johnson fired two shotgun blasts at him, with the other four firing a total of more than 40 .223-caliber rifle rounds. A fourth trooper at the site had a rifle, but didn’t fire because he “could not feel his hands due to the extreme cold weather.”
After Eyre went down, the group rendered first aid until he was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was declared dead.
Eyre suffered nearly two dozen gunshot wounds, Miovas said, including one to the head which an autopsy deemed fatal. His .22 revolver contained only one round and hadn’t been fired.
All five of the troopers and officers who fired said they saw Eyre still pointing the gun at them or apparently posing a threat after the first volley, prompting them to fire again.
Miovas pointed out that the officers were “legally entitled to defend themselves and the other officers involved” once Eyre aimed his gun.
“Given that Cody Eyre clearly pointed a gun in the direction of four Alaska State Troopers and two Fairbanks police officers and yelled ‘You guys can [expletive] die right now, I don’t give a [expletive]!,’ the officers were legally entitled to use deadly force to protect themselves and their fellow officers,” Miovas wrote.
Miovas’ letter means the state will not file criminal charges against the troopers and officers in Eyre’s shooting.
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