Breaking: Police release video from December shooting

Multiple videos and photos shared.

Editor’s note: This article includes a summation of a video of an officer-involved shooting. It includes both profane language and descriptions of violence.

The Juneau Police Department released video of a December officer-involved shooting ending in the death of a Juneau resident a day after the family of the deceased filed a lawsuit against JPD and the city.

The video, released shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday in a news release, available here shows the circumstances of the shooting of Kelly Michael Stephens, 43, on Cinema Drive on Dec. 29, 2019. The release includes video from both the vehicle and Officer James Esbenshade’s body-worn camera. There is also a photo of the leash Stephens had in his possession, which appears to be a dog leash attached via carabiner to a chain.

The vehicle camera shows Stephens swinging the object but has no audio. Stephens exits the car camera’s field of view before the shot is fired.

The body-cam footage is extremely poorly lit, but includes audio. Esbenshade is shown for five minutes before the shooting.

Esbenshade receives a report of a shot fired in the vicinity of Cinema Drive and drives to the area. Footage shows him driving to the area, where several other figures can be seen in the poor light.

Esbenshade retrieves a service rifle from the trunk of his vehicle, chambers a round and proceeds toward the disturbance. “What’s going on?” Esbenshade says several times. Stephens can be heard yelling “F— you.”

Esbenshade yells “stop right there” and “hold it” at Stephens repeatedly, telling Stephens to show his hands while physically backing away from Stephens.

Stephens says “f—ing shoot me” several times before yelling “I will kill you.”

Esbenshade makes another attempt to tell Stephens to stop before firing a single round and calling in the shooting. Stephens can be seen groaning and screaming on the ground, saying “kill me” as someone else, presumably another officer, asks Esbenshade if Stephens had any weapons.

“He had a chain and he was swinging it,” Esbenshade replies.

The video ends shortly afterward. From exiting the vehicle to the round being fired, roughly 40 seconds pass.

A representative for the Stephens family’s legal team did not immediately respond to a message or call seeking comment.

This is a breaking news story and more data will be added as it becomes available.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or lockett@juneauempire.com.

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