Family, public respond to footage from fatal police shooting

On Nov. 12 the North Kitsap Herald received another release of documents and body camera footage from the investigators of a July 3 police shooting in Poulsbo which resulted in the death of Stonechild Chiefstick.

These documents and videos are part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act request for all items pertaining to the shooting investigation. The documents and video referenced in this story may not yet provide a complete picture of the incident, as investigation materials continue to be released.

In October the Herald received over 400 pages of documents that included testimony, interviews, and accounts from witnesses, officers and first responders to the incident. These testimonies included interviews and statements from family members of Chiefstick.

On Nov. 12 The Herald received five body camera videos belonging to different officers at the scene. Three of the videos were recorded after the shooting took place, as the scene was being secured and after Chiefstick had been taken away in an ambulance.

The other two videos belong to Poulsbo Police Officers Michael Miulli and Craig Keller.

Miulli’s body camera video shows him and another officer making contact with Chiefstick prior to the shooting and asking him to talk for a moment in order to address reports of suspicious activity in the park.

Officer Miulli tells Chiefstick that police had received a number of complaints about his behavior.

“We’ve been getting quite a few, quite a few people just concerned about you, OK?” Miulli says in the video.

Miulli notes that officers had received about five complaints from people at the park about Chiefstick, before clarifying that he isn’t suggesting that Chiefstick is doing anything wrong, at which point Chiefstick mumbles something unintelligible and an officer off-camera makes the statement to Chiefstick “and we’ve left you alone too, haven’t we?”

Chiefstick notes that he appreciates that and fist bumps both officers.

Miulli tries to explain why they approached Chiefstick on this occasion stating, “That’s the thing, you know people are coming up to us and they’re like, ‘hey were concerned about that guy right there,’ OK?”

The second video is taken from the body camera of Craig Keller.

At about 35 seconds into the video, a woman talking to Keller can be heard saying “That’s not his stuff, that’s that guy’s stuff, right there.”

At about 1:18 a voice off-camera notes to Keller that “the screwdriver’s in his right pocket.”

Previously released witness statements allege that Chiefstick had threatened people in the park with a screwdriver prior to his interaction with Keller. Following the shooting, a screwdriver was recovered from the scene.

In the video, Keller quickly approaches Chiefstick and tells him to get his hands out of his pockets. As Keller attempts to grab hold of Chiefstick’s arm, Chiefstick says “hey chill out, chill out,” while pulling away. A struggle ensues, which, knocks Keller’s camera to the ground. Seconds later someone off-camera can be heard yelling “screwdriver” and then “get on the ground” after which come two quick gunshots.

The full video is a little over 23 minutes long, at about 5:25 a bystander picks up Keller’s body camera and immediately drops it realizing what it is and alerts officers to its location.

The Herald reached out to Lt. Kevin Crane, assistant commander for the Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team (KCIRT) investigation, in order to find out if any additional body camera footage existed of the shooting itself. Crane said he didn’t believe any additional footage existed.

In the wake of the release of this video, the public has responded both on social media and in person at the Nov. 13 Poulsbo City Council meeting.

For the first time since the shooting, Diane Charlie, Chiefstick’s mother spoke to the city council.

“I want to thank the people who that are in support of my son … my son was a good person and the way they’re trying to bring him down in the newspapers … Everything … I won’t look at the things on Facebook,” Charlie said. “I tell my daughters not to, but they did yesterday, and they’re like glass and they’re all broken all over again.”

“Something has got to stop. There has to be change in the laws to stop all this. Intimidation by police is extreme, all around, not just here, it’s all around. My son didn’t deserve this. He should be alive today.”

The tone in the Poulsbo City Council chambers appeared to shift from somber to agitated, when Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson attempted to move the meeting along, without realizing additional attendees wished to speak.

In order to avoid the mistake from being made again, Mayor Erickson asked speakers to line up at the side of the council chambers.

Following this brief confusion, one speaker, Wendy Jones of Bainbridge Island made pointed remarks towards the council, claiming that the mayor had jumped at the chance to move away from the subject.

Immediately following these comments, Councilman Jeff McGinty noted that the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting is typically only 15 minutes long and that they had already allowed an excessive amount of time. The crowd quickly shouted down this point and the comment period continued.

When the time had come for council comments, Mayor Erickson’s drew ire from the crowd.

Erickson reiterated that the investigation is completely independent of the council, that they are unaware of when these reports are released and that the council has no control over them. However, the mayor also admitted that she had not watched the body camera footage yet.

“I might have to make some huge decisions early on and I want to take the guidance of the courts and the guidance of our attorneys and we have a legal process in the United States of America, it’s called due process,” Erickson said.

This elicited boos and jeers from the crowd.

Erickson then directed her attention to Chiefstick’s mother and thanked her for coming and offered up her services stating if there was anything she could do to help, she would. At this offer, a member in the crowd yelled “fire Keller.”

At the close of the meeting, Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker took a moment to address assertions from one audience member who questioned whether officers within the Poulsbo Police Department were making jokes about the shooting at the expense of Chiefstick.

“I just want to say I appreciate the mayor and the city council, and the community for coming out and talking,” Schoonmaker began. “The July 3rd event is significant, a man lost his life. There is no one in our department, [or] in the city that is making jokes about it.”

“I take exception to … anybody who makes a statement to that effect,” Schoonmaker added. “ We are taking this extremely seriously.”

“It’s also hard to be in a position where both your silence and your comments are used against you,” the chief said, prompting a word of agreement from Erickson.

“It’s a tough position to be in,” the chief continued. “But with that said … My doors are always open to have that dialogue so we can have some better understanding.”

The chief ended his comments at the meeting by suggesting everyone request a copy of the KCIRT investigation materials.

“I know it’s 500-plus pages, but the report was done for a reason and it’s that long for a reason and all the facts should be heard before people make up their mind. If they make up their mind afterward and our opinions differ, that’s fine,” Schoonmaker said.

All investigation materials gathered by KCIRT were turned over to Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad Enright on Oct. 16. Enright will determine whether criminal charges will be filed against Keller.

On Wednesday, Enright stated that he has requested additional interviews with a few more witnesses from the scene of the shooting, but would not say if he was leaning in any direction with regard to filing criminal charges. Enright did note that the projected 60-day deliberation period is still on course.

Members of the public may request a copy of the investigation materials by visiting Kitsap County’s online Public Records Center.

Video from the Nov. 13 Poulsbo City Council meeting can be found here.