Officer from the Juneau Police Department investigate an officer involved shooting that occurred early Sunday morning off of Cinema Drive, Dec. 29, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Officer from the Juneau Police Department investigate an officer involved shooting that occurred early Sunday morning off of Cinema Drive, Dec. 29, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

JPD officer involved in fatal shooting cleared

The Office of Special Prosecution investigated the case.

A Juneau Police Department officer involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect was cleared of wrongdoing by the Office Of Special Prosecutions.

The Alaska Department of Law cleared Officer James Esbenshade in the December shooting of Kelly Michael Stephens, 34, and would not charge him, JPD public safety manager Erann Kalwara said in a press release late Friday.

“Officer Esbenshade was legally justified in his use of deadly force in order to defend himself from the threat of serious physical injury posed by Mr. Stephens,” wrote Alaska Chief Assistant Attorney General Jack McKenna in a letter to the JPD. “The State of Alaska will not bring criminal charges against Officer Esbenshade in relation to his use of deadly force on December 29, 2019.”

[Man killed by police screamed at and threatened officer with chain]

Esbenshade has been working in administrative status at JPD since the shooting and is expected to return to patrol duty this week.

JPD Chief Ed Mercer is out of town and could not be reached for comment.

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

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