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DA clears Arapahoe County deputies in deadly shooting

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Posted at 1:53 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 15:55:08-04

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado’s 18th Judicial District has cleared two Arapahoe County deputies in the fatal shooting of a federal prisoner escapee on May 28.

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Deputy James Stiltner shot and killed 31-year-old Steven Ferguson after he pointed a gun, which investigators later determined was an air pistol, at the pursing deputy in the parking lot of a Days Inn in Centennial, according to a letter from the DA’s office released Monday.

A second Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputy, identified as deputy Draper, was on scene at the time of the officer-involved shooting.

“I conclude the evidence does not support that either Deputy Stiltner or Deputy Draper committed a crime on May 28, 2020,” wrote John E. Kellner, Chief Deputy District Attorney 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Ferguson, who was in “escape” status with an active warrant from the U.S. Marshalls after running away from a halfway house in Denver, had previously stolen a Jeep Cherokee and parked it at the Days Inn where he was staying with his girlfriend, the letter states.

During routine patrol, Draper spotted the stolen Jeep in the hotel’s parking lot and radioed Stiltner for assistance. The two deputies were watching the vehicle when they noticed Ferguson began driving away, and they moved in to box-in the stolen vehicle, according to Kellner.

“The driver of the Jeep Cherokee – later determined to be Mr. Ferguson – put the Jeep in reverse and backed over the hood of Deputy Stiltner’s vehicle. Deputy Stiltner stated he feared the driver was going to continue over the hood due to the lift on the vehicle,” the letter states.

Stiltner got out of his vehicle and began chasing Ferguson who then reached for his waistband and pointed a gun at the deputy, Kellner stated. In response, Stiltner shot Ferguson three times in the upper torso.

The gun that Furguson pointed at Deputy Stiltner fell to the ground during the shooting, revealing it to be an air pistol.

“Although the gun was revealed to be a CO2 pistol, there is no reasonable way either deputy could have known that at the time Mr. Ferguson pulled the gun. Moreover, the CO2 pistol appears designed to be unmistakable from a functioning firearm, including a cylinder loaded with what appears to be real ammunition,” Kellner wrote.

Ferguson, who authorities say was was a self-admitted member of a prison street gang with connections to white supremacist ideology, had a lengthy criminal record and had been in and out of prison on several charges. He also had an active warrant out of Denver for domestic violence charges in addition to the federal escape warrant at the time of the shooting.