Report: Arapahoe County deputy justified in fatal Centennial shooting

Authorities release review quicker than usual

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A woman who appeared to be the girlfriend of a man fatally shot by an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy told an investigator that the man would have “definitely shot the cop if he had the chance to do it,” according to the formal investigation into whether the deputy’s use of force was justified.

Steven Edward Ferguson, 31, pointed a CO2 pistol, or “air” gun, toward Deputy James Stiltner. That’s according to Stiltner’s account, his body-worn camera and a person who was with Ferguson at the May 28 scene, the report says.

The evidence supports that Stiltner reasonably believed he was in imminent danger and that the use of deadly force was justified, John Kellner wrote for the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in the report, dated June 12.

“This is true even though the gun was later determined to be a CO2 pistol because there were no markings on the gun to make it appear like a CO2 gun. Indeed, the gun appears designed to look real in every aspect, including being loaded with what appear to be real bullets,” wrote Kellner, the chief deputy district attorney. The 18th Judicial District includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.

The afternoon of May 28, Ferguson and his girlfriend, according to the report, checked into the Days Inn in central Centennial at 2:29 p.m.

Deputy Draper — likely Deputy Kelly Draper, whose police dog, Kilo, was at the scene — was on routine patrol in the area of the Days Inn at about 3:16 p.m. and saw a white Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot, suspecting it was stolen due to a missing plate, the report says. Draper checked the vehicle identification number, confirming the vehicle was stolen. Stiltner responded to assist Draper.

The two deputies then noticed the Jeep was moving, and they parked their cars immediately in front of and behind the Jeep to block it, the report says.

Ferguson put the Jeep in reverse and backed over the hood of Stiltner’s vehicle, and Ferguson then got out of the Jeep. Stiltner got out of his patrol car, and Ferguson began to run and grab for his waistband, according to the report.

Stiltner reported seeing Ferguson point a gun toward him; what appears to be body-camera images show Stiltner holding something in his hands. Other photos in the report show the CO2 gun the report says Ferguson held.

Ferguson’s companion said she saw Ferguson exit the Jeep, take two steps, pull out a gun and point it at the deputy, the report says.

Stiltner fired his weapon three times, striking Ferguson in the upper torso. Draper’s police dog, Kilo, was released from Draper’s vehicle at about the same time as Stiltner engaged Ferguson, and Kilo bit Ferguson on the back of his head and neck as Ferguson fell forward, according to the report. The bites were non-fatal, and Draper is heard on the body-worn camera ordering Kilo to stop once it appeared Ferguson was no longer a threat, the report says.

Stiltner began “lifesaving efforts,” but Ferguson died at the scene, the report says. The Days Inn sits at 9719 E. Geddes Ave. in Centennial near Interstate 25 and East Dry Creek Road.

“Although Ferguson’s 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,” the report says.

Research detailed that Ferguson’s gun, a Crossman SNR.357, is capable of firing BBs and .177 caliber pellets, and the gun was loaded with .177 caliber pellets, according to the report.

“It should be noted that this is different from an ‘airsoft’ gun in that an ‘airsoft’ gun usually (fires) plastic BBs, and ‘air’ guns usually fire lead or steel BBs or pellets,” the report says.

A used hypodermic needle was located in Ferguson’s pants, and in his wallet were two buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual films — commonly known as Suboxone, a medicine used to treat opiate addiction, the report says.

The witness with the redacted name who appeared to be Ferguson’s girlfriend told a DA’s office investigator that she recalled Ferguson say, regarding the police, that, “If they get me, I'm shooting it out with them.”

She also said Ferguson uses methamphetamine and believed he had been using “all day” on May 28, the report says.

Ferguson was in “escape” status with an active warrant from the U.S. Marshals Service after running away from a halfway house in Denver, the report says.

Ferguson was criminally sentenced in 2017 for four years after pleading guilty to burglary of a building. The sentence was to be served in federal prison because Ferguson also was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison in 2017 after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and distribution or possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the report says. Ferguson was serving the end of his federal sentence at the Independence House in the Denver area.

Due to policies brought about by COVID-19, Ferguson was transferred to in-home detention with GPS monitoring around May 10. Ferguson was to check in with staff three times a day, the report says.

On May 25, Ferguson was allegedly involved in a domestic violence assault followed by giving car chase, immediately followed by an alleged carjacking in Denver, and a warrant was issued for Ferguson’s arrest, the report says.

Ferguson was a self-admitted member of a prison street gang with connections to white supremacist ideology, according to the report.

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