The Real Story From those who were there:
February 8th, 2018 would have been my brother’s 21st Birthday, but instead of celebrating, my family and I spent that time planning and attending his memorial service. My brother was shot and killed by law enforcement over two months ago, and we are still waiting for the video footage, forensic evidence and police reports to be released to us. We are still left to wonder as to why lethal force was used and to question why his death was not prevented.
There has been a lot of speculation as to the circumstances that led to Cody’s passing. I’d like to take a moment to share the information that our family knows as of now. On Christmas Eve, Cody had been having girlfriend problems, made worse by the fact that his truck would not start, and he was stressed about the holidays. He was having, what most would call, a bad day. My mother was the first to arrive home, and she watched as Cody prepared to go on a walk, to help clear his mind. My brother is Alaskan Native and is part Inupiaq. He was raised to be an avid outdoorsman and hunter. At 20 years old, Cody was very self aware of his emotions, and he often went on walks as a positive coping mechanism. For the last two years, he had been primarily living in Delta Junction, a small rural community of 2,500 residents, and working for the Tetlin native village during the construction season. It was not unusual for him to carry a gun. He had his small pistol with him this night, and it was secured in his waist holster.
My mother followed him in her car, keeping a watchful eye on Cody as he left our family home and began what would be his last walk. She was worried about him, and called my father who immediately left work in Delta Junction to rush to Cody’s aid. He was about a two hour drive from where Cody was at this time. The rest of the family quickly gathered at my parent’s home, anxious for Cody to be brought home safely, and eager to be present for emotional support upon his arrival home. My mother attempted to convince Cody to come home, but he was adamant that he needed time alone, and that he wanted to continue on his walk. My mother decided to ask the police for help, to aid as an additional safety measure in bringing Cody home until my father was able to arrive. Cody had already peacefully walked four miles, in the frigid cold, well over the course of an hour, and during the duration of his walk had made no attempts to harm himself or others. The route he was taking was one he had been on routinely, and he knew it well. He had passed by numerous homes and a large gas station on the corner of a busy intersection without showing any signs of aggression; he simply wanted time alone to carry on his walk.
At this time my younger sister arrived to the scene. She and my mother watched as police and troopers pursued Cody and blocked off sections of the road, using their vehicles as barriers. Seeing Cody become increasingly agitated and scared, my mother attempted to tell the 911 operator that he was not out to hurt anyone, but that she had called 911 to get help for him. She made several attempts to communicate with the police but she was ignored each time. Both my mother and sister watched from the side of the road as Cody peacefully spoke with law enforcement and then walked past their vehicles crossing an intersection towards a secluded wooded trail that was blocked off by fences and thick trees. Moments after he disappeared from their sight, numerous rounds of shots rang out. My fathered arrived and found my mother and sister distraught, confused, and uninformed. Never in our families’ wildest nightmares did we ever imagine that Cody being shot and killed by law enforcement was a possibility. My father began asking troopers questions concerning Cody’s safety, but no information about Cody was given. They were only told that no officers had been harmed.
An ambulance arrived, and my family assumed the worst and made a decision on their own to follow the ambulance to the Emergency Department where they were placed in a waiting room. The sliding glass doors and curtains to Cody’s trauma room were shut and security officers stood in front of the door, hands folded, not allowing any family to stand in the hallway to observe what was going on. The family sat together, tense from stress, without any information on Cody’s medical condition. Eventually the family was allowed into Cody’s trauma room where it was determined that he was unconscious and in a medical condition so unstable that he would not be able to survive. Together in a state of shock, we sang Amazing Grace and held him, hoping he knew how loved and cherished he was. That night was the first of many Christmas Eves where he will not be present. My family will never be the same after losing Cody in such a tragic nature. He was a gentle and kind man, on the cusp of coming into adulthood. His life was just beginning.
Immediately after Cody's time of death, troopers told the family that it was mandatory that we leave the room. Still in a state of shock at having lost Cody so quickly, I asked that my family be given a few moments with Cody’s body in order to grieve, and to process the sudden loss of his life. We were not granted this time, and were instead told that Cody’s body was now in their custody and part of a homicide investigation. I am a nurse, and I asked if I could respectfully stand in the back of the room so I could visually assess what happened to him and view his body as they collected evidence and took pictures. I was denied this request, and I was forced to leave his trauma room by troopers. No information was provided to us concerning why it was necessary to use lethal force. We were not able to properly grieve that night, due to a lack of information. However even now, well over two months since he passed, we still do not have our questions answered.
We are a family that supports law enforcement. Before Cody died he was working towards becoming a military police in the Air National Guard, and our family wholeheartedly supported him. Like Cody, we are proud to be American, proud to be from Alaska, and proud to be of Alaskan Native decent. We respect law enforcement and we intend to hold them accountable to their promise to “serve and protect.” We also expect transparency and open sharing of evidence when lethal force is used.
Despite all the uncertainties that exist concerning Cody’s death, we are willing to trust the bureaucratic process, to trust that Cody’s homicide investigation will be handled in a just manner, and to hold in good faith that even though troopers are conducting the investigation of their own actions, efforts are being made to ensure that biases do not influence the way in which his case is carried out. However we cannot passively sit by and continue to be held in the dark. Without answers, we are forced to question and challenge the circumstances that led to Cody’s death.
Cody had a bright future ahead of him, with many dreams and aspirations. He had a clean criminal record. He was a nonviolent person and it would have been very uncharacteristic of him to have intent to harm others or to use lethal force against police.
The last time my family saw Cody he had peacefully spoken with law enforcement and then walked past them and the barricades they had set up, in the direction of a wooded area, after making multiple attempts to let it be known that he needed time by himself. It was the reason for his long walk in the first place; he simply wanted to be left alone.
Shortly after my family lost sight of Cody, they heard many rounds of shots, approximately 30-40, ring out. We know that five law enforcement officers actively fired at Cody, and we have reason to believe that even more officers were part of the team that surrounded Cody at the scene of his death. They emerged from the woods in full tactical gear, carrying automatic military grade rifles. It is alarming that so many officers responded, and that they took time to gear up so extensively given that it was a concerned mother calling for help to maintain her son’s safety. If Cody was a potential threat, he was shot and killed in an area where there was no one around that could have been a potential victim. We fear that the officers were outfitted with firepower and responded in numbers that were far greater than what was needed in response to a worried mother and her young son who was having a bad day. We fear that the degree of force used by law enforcement to pursue Cody escalated a stable situation into one that never needed to end in violence. We fear that due to tactical incompetence Cody was sentenced to a preventable execution. Our fear is that ultimately he paid for this misguided approach to what should have been routine police work, with his life.
We have not been permitted access to the state autopsy report, but we were in the trauma room with him when he passed. Cody had sustained multiple gunshot wounds, both his legs had been shot, ranging from his ankles to his waist. He had a tourniquet applied to each thigh and his right foot was barely attached to his body. However, what concerned us most was that he had been shot directly to the back of the head. We must know if this amount of force was necessary. We were initially told by troopers that no video footage existed by either police or troopers. We were told by the troopers that the State of Alaska was in the process of updating troopers’ gear, that law enforcement did not have body cameras and that no video footage existed due to the gear updates. We were in a state of shock that police and troopers could use lethal force and that in this day and era of technology it was acceptable to have access to automatic weapons and advanced tactical gear, but not have body cameras.
We have filed a public request for his police report through the Alaska Department of public safety, but have not been granted access at this time. We have also sent emails to the Attorney General, the Fairbanks Police Department, and the Alaska State Troopers requesting to know more about what happened in the woods, and what sort of threat Cody posed to law enforcement that led to the use of lethal force. The family has received no response from the Attorney General. The Fairbanks police have transferred the case to the State Troopers. The lead investigator for the State Troopers, Mr. Duxbury, has amicably attempted to answer as many questions as policy will permit. 24 days after Cody’s death he was able to confirm that video footage does indeed exist. We are thankful and relieved that video footage does exist, but we are troubled by the conflicting information concerning body cameras that we have been given by troopers. We are desperate for the peace and healing that comes from knowing the truth. Our sense of safety in the world has been jolted, because what happened to Cody does not make sense to us.
Walking away from law enforcement, being 20, or having a gun on your person, especially in Alaska, is not grounds for lethal force. Cody was fair skinned, but the 911 operator had asked Cody’s race, and my mother had reported that he was Alaskan Native. We hope that the information she provided to the Fairbanks 911 dispatch did not negatively profile him or influence the way he was handled. Even in his darkest moments on the night of his death Cody kept on going, he chose to keep walking. He had walked four peaceful miles, without any attempts to harm anyone, prior to law enforcement arriving. Our goal is not to be controversial without just cause, but we find ourselves in a unique position that demands us to take action and ask questions. Cody’s life has been taken, and he deserves to have a voice representing him. We are thankful for the men and women that work in law enforcement and risk their lives on a daily basis. We profoundly respect their dedication, their sacrifice, and we know that their job is not an easy one. But we also know that human nature is not perfect, and that mistakes can be made even by those who are attempting to do right. In a time where officer related shootings are of national concern, we simply seek the truth. We know that an officer’s decision to use lethal force is not always black or white, and that the important conversation begins in this area of grey. How could this have happened to Cody? Was there a different systematic approach that could have been taken in response to a nonviolent young man on Christmas Eve? If a more therapeutic approach had been taken would there have been different results that would have ultimately ended with Cody still being alive? What is the standard protocol that the Fairbanks Police and State Troopers implement when handling citizens that are distressed? What exactly happened to Cody in the woods, once he was no longer in the sight of his family? We want to see the videos that the troopers have in their custody, so that we can grieve properly. We no longer want to speculate about what happened to him, we want to know the facts.
This is a dark and challenging time for my family and I. Like Cody, during his darkest hour we are committed to carrying out this long walk. If necessary, my family and I, as a united whole are prepared to walk to the ends of the earth to advocate as Cody’s voice, as he is not able to be here to advocate for himself. We want to ensure that the narrative that emerges from this incident equally reflects his side. We cannot be silent about victims’ rights, or the rights of their families. We cannot be silent about Cody’s story and our plight to find out what happened to him, to seek truth and if need be, justice.
For more information on Cody’s ongoing case, please follow along on Instagram #keepwalkingwithcody and at www.keepwalkingwithcody.org. A GoFundMe account has been set up by friends of Cody Eyre to help my family with the expenses related to Cody’s death, and to help pay for a second autopsy by a world renowned pathologist that specializes in police shootings. We his family, respectfully encourage anyone that feels compelled by his story, and wants to help, to share the website that has been created for him.
Thank you and God bless,
The Eyre Family