Two weeks after the Alaska Department of Law declined to criminally charge the Fairbanks Police Department in the shooting death of 20-year-old Cody Eyre, the department has released an annotated video showing what officers saw on the night Eyre was killed.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon that was broadcast on Facebook Live, Fairbanks Police Chief Eric Jewkes showed the graphic and profane scene that took place on Christmas Eve 2017 when Eyre, depressed, walked with a gun down one of Fairbanks’ major highways.
Eyre, a Thunder Mountain High School graduate, was raised in Juneau, and members of his family still live here. In a September interview with the Empire, Eyre’s sister said the family was awaiting the release of the video. Juneau attorney Mark Choate said at that time that he was preparing a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of the family, and he confirmed Wednesday that he is still preparing that case.
“I know this is difficult and it seems like an eternity sometimes … but I do believe we worked diligently to be forthright and honest,” Jewkes said about the release of the video.
Choate said the video, which includes multiple sources of video and the audio from a microphone worn by an Alaska State Trooper, was “selectively edited,” and he wants to see the unedited copies and make sure the Eyre family has complete information.
“It’s more than disappointing for the family that the troopers had withheld producing any information to the family until right before the press conference and had only provided select information and a story intended to convince the public that the officers did no wrong when everything points to a lack of judgment, a lack of training and misuse of their power to end the life of a young man whose mother simply wanted a health and welfare check,” Choate said.
Eyre’s mother had called 911 on Dec. 24, 2017 and requested that check on her son after he threatened to kill himself.
The video provided by the police department shows law enforcement officers following Eyre as he walked more than half a mile down a highway and into a cul-de-sac behind a Baptist church. When he stopped, they stopped. When he advanced, they did, and when he walked toward him, they backed up, keeping their distance from a man who had a gun and frequently pointed it at his head.
Officers repeatedly — 78 times by Jewkes’ count — asked Eyre to put the gun down and talk with them. Eyre, distraught, kept walking away from them and repeatedly screamed that he was ready to kill himself.
As he neared the end of the cul-de-sac, which abutted a residential neighborhood, his screams became louder and occasionally lost all words.
He was illuminated by the headlights of an officer’s patrol car and the aboard spotlight, which cast long shadows.
At the end of the video, Eyre points his pistol at the officers.
“You guys can f***ing die right now; I don’t give a f**k,” he says, and they open fire. The video cuts to black.
According to the report submitted by the Department of Law, officers fired more than 40 shots, and Eyre’s body was hit by at least 23 of those.
Eyre’s sister, Samantha Eyre-Harrison, said the family saw the video Tuesday and that the edited version doesn’t show Eyre asking to be left alone, him peacefully walking away to calm himself down, or him pleading with police that no one needs to die.
She noted that police held their press conference on World Mental Health Day, a holiday intended to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Eyre-Harrison is a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital and said FPD and Troopers failed to de-escalate the situation and left her brother in a literal dead end, feeling trapped.
“When someone feels threatened, and they’re already in a fight or flight state, it’s only going to antagonize them even more,” she said. “I know in the depths of my heart that he was failed that night by FPD and the Alaska State Troopers.”
Alaska State Troopers Capt. Ron Wall said during Wednesday’s press conference that the video was delayed by the need to conclude a homicide investigation against the officers, then by the need to allow the Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions to independently investigate.
“We wanted to get this out, but we wanted to do this in a controlled fashion,” he said. “Hopefully you guys understand that we’ve done it as fast as we can.”
Wednesday’s press conference marked the second time this year that police video has been released following an officer-involved shooting in Alaska. In February, the Alaska Department of Law declined to press charges following the October 2017 shooting death of a man who apparently was attempting to steal a police car while in handcuffs. In that case, a body camera video was released four months after the incident following an open records request by the Associated Press.
Editor’s note: Suicide is a serious topic. If you’re in trouble and need help, please talk to someone. If you don’t think you can talk to someone in person, call the Alaska CARELINE at 1-877-266-HELP, or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Alaska Community Mental Health Centers, or juneausuicideprevention.org.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.