The family of Stonechild Chiefstick filed a lawsuit against the city of Poulsbo in federal court Thursday, almost two years after his death at the hands of a Poulsbo police officer.
The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the city in addition to inadequate officer training and use of excessive force. The lawsuit comes just two days before the second anniversary of the shooting death of Chiefstick at Poulsbo’s annual Independence Day celebration.
The family held a news conference at the Suquamish Tribe House of Awakened Culture at noon July 1. Video can be found on the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability Facebook page.
Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman talked of the toll the incident has had not only on Chiefstick’s family but on the Suquamish Tribe and its effort to get justice.
“We’re here to keep working to try and find some justice…This has been a long two years, for the family especially. We’ve been through a lot of review and discussions about what this tragic event means in a political, spiritual and cultural way…There’s a lot of trauma around us,” Forsman said.
Chiefstick, 39, was a member of the Cree Tribe but had ties to the Suquamish through his children. Chiefstick was shot and killed by officer Craig Keller in front of a crowd of people waiting for the annual fireworks show at Muriel Iverson Waterfront Park on July 3, 2019. Chiefstick was reportedly threatening park visitors with a screwdriver.
The incident sparked a number of local protests as well as weeks of extended public comment during City Council meetings, calling for Keller to be prosecuted and fired from the police department. Keller was placed on paid leave for over a year before being reinstated in August of 2020 after being cleared of charges by Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad Enright.
The incident and the outcome of the investigation have shattered the close ties the city held with the tribe.
Also speaking at the news conference were members of Chiefstick’s family, including his ex-wife Trishandra Pickup, who allies to the family have said has been instrumental in the fight for justice for Chiefstick. Pickup shares four of Chiefstick’s six children. “I have a right to love him. I have a right to fight for justice for him.”
The family’s lawyer, Gabe Galanda of Galanda Broadman PLLC in Seattle, said they are calling on Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate Chiefstick’s killing and press criminal charges against Keller.
Galanda also called into question the validity of the independent investigation. “Let us be clear, there was not an independent, authentic nor genuine investigation into what transpired on July 3, 2019,” Galanda said.
Galanda praised independent journalist Dominic Campese, who conducted an investigation and published it in a YouTube documentary.
Over the past year, the city of Poulsbo has worked to repair its relationship with the Suquamish Tribe and committed to addressing racial injustice as well as increased police training.
The city has yet to make a comment on the lawsuit, though in September it expressed support for a permanent memorial of Chiefstick at the park. Chiefstick’s family started a Gofundme for the memorial called “Healing of the People.” The goal is $100,000 and over $5,000 has been raised.