Trooper involved in fatal shooting allowed back to work

A trooper involved in a fatal shooting last week is free to return to work after a mandatory leave.

Troopers say John King, who has been with the agency since Feb. 2014, shot and killed Sterling resident Jon Ployhar after a traffic stop escalated into a physical confrontation Saturday night. Troopers wrote in a dispatch that King tried to make a traffic stop that night around mile 82 of the Sterling Highway, and ended up shooting Ployhar after a short chase and a fight.

King was placed on a mandatory administrative leave for 72 hours following the shooting, wrote Alaska State Troopers Public Information Officer Megan Peters in an email. He is now allowed to return to work.

“The administrative leave is standard for officer involved shootings,” Peters said in the email.

Peters said that information on whether King has been involved in a shooting or confrontation before would be considered part of his personnel file and therefore confidential.

Peters said the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, a branch of the troopers, will use any and all evidence available to them in the investigation of the shooting. She said she could not say whether there would be audio or video evidence included in this case.

“It’s the prerogative of the investigators of what to release,” Peters said, adding that she does not have an answer back from the investigators as to whether they are viewing audio and video.

Public Information Officer Beth Ipsen said not every trooper vehicle is equipped with video capability. The vehicles come to the department without those kinds of enhancements, she said.

“They (the vehicles) have to be sent to get equipped,” Ipsen said.

Alaska State Troopers don’t release audio or video evidence in cases before investigations are over, which Peters said is the same when it comes to a lot of evidence.

“With investigations, you have to worry about integrity,” she said. “Let’s say there is something there (in a video or audio file). … What happens if we release it and it’s for everyone to see and for some reason it gets thrown out of trial?”

The Alaska State Troopers keep information like names, audio and video at a higher level of confidentiality than some departments in other states, Peters said. For example, she said the troopers do not identify the name of a person until they have been charged with something.

“A lot of places name suspects,” she said. “We don’t do that.”

Whether evidence gets released to the public after an investigation is completed is not set in stone, Peters said, because of the possibility that the issue could be taken to court.

“There are so many hypotheticals … I can’t even begin to answer that,” she said.

King graduated the Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka on June 6, 2014.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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