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Family calls for changes in police training after Fairbanks shooting

FAIRBANKS — Friends and family of a man shot by Fairbanks law enforcement officers are renewing their call for changes in police training protocols.

About a dozen people with connections to Cody Eyre gathered on the anniversary of this death to remember Eyre, seek additional documentation related to his death and demand changes in police training, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

"We believe that how you approach someone in a mental health crisis vastly affects the outcome. In Cody's case it was life or death," said Eyre's sister Samantha Eyre-Harrison at a candlelight vigil.

Eyre, 20, was shot dead in a church parking lot on Dec. 24, 2017 after police say he repeatedly refused to put down a gun and pointed it at officers.

Fairbanks police and Alaska State Troopers contacted Eyre after his mother called and expressed worry for him. She said he was having a bad day and walked out of the family's home off distress.

Cody Eyre, 20, was killed in a shooting involving Alaska State Troopers and Fairbanks police officers on Dec. 24, 2017. He is pictured in his Alaska Military Youth Academy uniform. Eyre graduated from the school in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Eyre-Harrison)

He wouldn’t come home when she followed him in a car. She mentioned to police that Eyre was armed. According to his family, Eyre frequently carried a revolver in a waist holster and they didn’t think he was a danger to others, only to himself.

Eyre-Harrison wants police trained to de-escalate such interactions, she said.

Eyre-Harrison said the family is still waiting for an autopsy report, the police report and complete audio recordings from all the officers who were involved.

Law enforcement agencies in October released an 11-minute video compilation of officer dashboard and body cameras leading up to the shooting.

A few days before the video was released, state prosecutors announced that none of the law enforcement would face criminal charges. Officers were "legally entitled to use deadly force" to protect themselves based on Eyre's actions, prosecutors said.

Fairbanks Police Chief Erik Jewkes said law enforcement officers told Eyre 78 times to put down his gun before he pointed the weapon at them. The audio track captures Eyre making a threatening statement, saying, "You guys could (expletive) die right now and I don't give a (expletive).

Officers fired 42 times. Eyre did not fire the .22-caliber handgun he carried.

Law enforcement agencies responded to the call with several officers carrying rifles. Eyre-Harrison expressed concern that police responded with such force because he was Alaska Native.

She cited statistics from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed Native Americans were killed by police at a higher rate than any other racial group in America in recent years.

“We believe that these labels as an Alaska Native man, that had been drinking, that had a gun — that was secured in a waist holster on his hip — was a very dangerous label here in Fairbanks, Alaska,” she said.