Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputy cleared in May 28 shooting of federal fugitive

An Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputy will not face criminal charges after he shot and killed a federal fugitive who pointed a pellet gun at deputies while trying to escape apprehension outside a Centennial motel.

Deputy James Stiltner was justified because he had no way of recognizing the gun that Steven Ferguson pointed at him was an air pistol that uses carbon dioxide pressure to fire metal BBs and .177-caliber pellets, according to an 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office investigation. Chief Deputy District Attorney John E. Keller cleared Stiltner in a letter sent Friday to Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown.

An Arapahoe County deputy on regular patrol on May 28 noticed a stolen Jeep parked outside a Days Inn at 9719 East Geddes Avenue in Centennial and called for backup in preparation of impounding the Jeep. Stiltner answered the backup call.

The deputies saw Ferguson, 31, trying to move the Jeep and blocked him with their patrol cars. Ferguson tried to roll over the hood of Stiltner’s car and then jumped out of the Jeep to run, according to the DA’s letter. As Stiltner chased him, Ferguson pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at the deputy.

The deputy fired three times, the letter said. Deputies attempted life-saving measures on Ferguson but he was declared dead at the scene.

After the shooting, investigators learned that Ferguson was wanted by U.S. marshals after tearing off an ankle monitor while finishing a sentence for firearms and drug distribution. He had been serving the remainder of his sentence at a halfway house but was moved to home confinement because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the letter said. Ferguson also was wanted by Denver police for a May 25 domestic assault, eluding and carjacking, the letter said.

Ferguson was a self-described member of a white supremacist prison gang, the letter said, and he had multiple racist tattoos. A witness told police that Ferguson had declared he would shoot a cop if he had the chance and would “shoot it out” if they get me. The witness also said he had used methamphetamine that day.

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