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Crime & Courts

Family files wrongful-death lawsuit over fatal Fairbanks police shooting in 2017

The family of a man killed by law enforcement officers in Fairbanks has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, state and multiple officers.

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)

The lawsuit filed this month by a representative of the Cody Eyre estate alleges Fairbanks police and Alaska State Troopers used unreasonable and excessive force in Eyre’s December 2017 death.

The lawsuit says Eyre was intoxicated and suicidal and police should have used non-lethal options, such as calling in mental health professionals, to diffuse the situation. Instead, officers overreacted, shining lights in Eyre’s eyes and surrounding him when he was distraught and posing no harm to anyone but himself, according to the lawsuit.

Authorities have said officers shot Eyre after he ignored repeated requests to put down his gun and pointed it at officers. State prosecutors concluded that officers were legally justified in their use of deadly force to protect themselves.

Authorities say more than 40 rounds and two individual shotgun rounds were fired at Eyre. He had 23 wounds, but the exact number of bullet hits was difficult to determine among entry and exit wounds, according to a report from prosecutors.

The report states that Eyre told the officers “You guys can (expletive) die right now” as he pointed his gun at them.

Audio and video recordings released by Alaska State Troopers and Fairbanks police show officers repeatedly warning the Alaska Native man to put down a gun.

Eyre's sister, Samantha Eyre-Harrison, said Tuesday her brother was having a bad day, experiencing girlfriend problems and job-hunting challenges. He drank alcohol and went for a walk to clear his mind.

Eyre’s mother, worried for his safety, followed him in a car, the sister said. Eyre walked for about four miles, and his mother finally called 911 for assistance. Police could have put the mother on the speaker phone to speak with Eyre but did not, Eyre-Harrison said.

The family is seeking a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages to be decided at trial, but Eyre-Harrison said their motive is not monetary.

"It's really about what has happened is deeply wrong and someone needs to stand up and acknowledge what happened is wrong," she said.

Cori Mills, a Department of Law spokeswoman, said in an email that her agency is reviewing the complaint and will respond in court. Fairbanks spokeswoman Teal Soden said in a statement the city understands the use of deadly force is traumatic for everyone involved.

“While law enforcement officers have a duty to protect the public and the right to protect themselves, we understand the impact of events such as this and the loss experienced by family and friends of Cody Eyre,” Soden said.

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