Officers who shot and killed former Juneau resident Cody Eyre will not face criminal charges, according to a press release Monday from Alaska State Troopers and the Fairbanks Police Department.
Eyre, 20, was killed Dec. 24, 2017 in Fairbanks, and a report from Chief Assistant Attorney General Paul J. Miovas, Jr. of the Office of Special Prosecutions goes into detail about the events leading up to Troopers and FPD officers shooting Eyre, who is a Thunder Mountain High School graduate.
Officers fired more than 40 times at Eyre and Eyre suffered 23 gunshot wounds, Miovas’ report stated. Eyre had a gun, which had one bullet in it and was not fired during the incident, Miovas wrote.
Troopers Elondre Johnson, Christine Joslin, James Thomas and FPD Officers Tyler Larimer and Richard Sweet all fired their weapons, and Larimer fired 28 rounds from his rifle, according to the report. FPD Public Information Officer Yumi McCulloch said in an email Wednesday that there are various circumstances that could lead to this many officers responding to a call. She said Troopers were the first to respond, then FPD came after learning more about the situation.
“In this incident, some of the circumstances that led our officers to respond were that Mr. Eyre was on/near a major roadway, was acting erratically, had a gun in his hand and a trooper reported that he gestured the gun towards the trooper at least twice,” McCulloch said.
Department of Public Safety Communications Director Jonathon Taylor concurred with McCulloch’s characterization.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Eyre’s sister Samantha Eyre-Harrison said it’s difficult for the family to believe that firing more than 40 times at someone is justified when the victim didn’t fire his weapon at all.
She also said that the family didn’t find out about Miovas’ report until reporters contacted them for comment about it. Family members were not invited to next week’s press conference either, she said. The family’s lawyer, Juneau-based attorney Mark Choate, said in a statement that it’s distressing that investigators have kept the family in the dark.
“It is unfortunate that the Troopers have used the criminal investigation to withhold from the family the body cams, audio, photos, evidence collected, and statements taken of the participants in the shooting,” Choate said. “So far, the State’s conduct is deeply disappointing. We’ll do what’s necessary to get all the facts and will proceed accordingly.”
Eyre-Harrison said the family is still preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state for her brother’s death.
The first call to authorities was a 911 call from Wasilla, Miovas wrote, from someone who was Facebook friends with Eyre. Eyre had begun a Facebook Live that evening and had threatened to kill himself, the friend told police. Shortly afterward, Cody’s mother Magdalena (who goes by Jean) called police and said she was concerned about her son.
Jean told police Cody and his girlfriend had just broken up, he had been drinking and he had a gun in a holster with him, according to the report. He was taking a walk, his mother stated, and she was following him in her car.
Troopers audio recorded the entire interaction, and FPD officers recorded it on their body cameras.
Officers talked calmly to Eyre and tried to get him to put down his gun, Miovas’ report states, but Eyre didn’t put it down and was unresponsive at times. Miovas describes Eyre’s behavior as “erratic,” and wrote that as Eyre walked closer to a residential area, officers became more concerned.
Miovas wrote that officers can be heard on the audio saying, “That’s at us,” and body camera footage shows officers reacting to a gun being pointed their way. On the audio, Eyre can then be heard saying “You guys can (expletive) die right now,” Miovas wrote, and at that point the officers fired two volleys of shots.
“Once Cody stopped, turned and faced the officers and pointed the gun at them, the officers were legally entitled to use deadly force to defend themselves and the other officers involved,” Miovas wrote.
The Eyre family released a statement following the OSP press release. The statement sought to clarify that just because the officers aren’t facing criminal charges, it doesn’t mean the shooting was justified.
“We remain convinced that the evidence will show that Cody’s death was the result of poor training and judgment by a swatted-up group of officers who failed in their primary duty to protect Cody,” the family’s statement read.
Eyre-Harrison said the family believes the OSP press release was an effort to shape public opinion prior to the full release of all the information in the case. A press conference has been scheduled for Oct. 10, and body camera footage will be shown at the press conference, according to a press release from Troopers and FPD.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.