The Kitsap County Incident Response Team (KCIRT), the group which has been investigating a fatal July 3 police shooting in Poulsbo, completed its investigation and turned the case over to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office on Wednesday.
“The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office received the case file and will conduct an independent review. The prosecutor’s office expects to conduct a timely review of the incident and projects a decision can be better made in 60 days,” according to a press release from the Bremerton Police Department.
On July 3, Poulsbo Police officers responded to reports of an individual threatening people with a screwdriver at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park in Poulsbo, where hundreds had gathered for a pre-Independence Day celebration.
Witnesses at the scene reported that officers surrounded the individual and eventually engaged with him in a scuffle. During that scuffle one officer shot the individual twice, a coroner’s report revealed that the man was shot in the torso and head, causing injuries that the individual later succumbed to at the scene.
People in the area fled the scene once the officer had discharged his weapon, many left behind items they had brought to the park for the celebration. The scene was quickly blocked off by Poulsbo Police and those who remained at the park were pushed off to the north end where a planned fireworks display went on without hesitation.
Days after the incident, individuals who were present at the park were able to return in order to claim their items that had been left behind. One woman later found a shell casing from the officer’s weapon tucked in a blanket she had been sitting on at the time of the incident.
In the minutes following the incident Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker called in the Kitsap County Incident Response Team (KCIRT), a group of 25 investigators representing different law enforcement agencies from all over Kitsap County, including investigators from Washington State Patrol.
KCIRT took over the investigation into the police shooting per requirements of the new legislation, I-940, which requires that an independent investigation be conducted into all officer-involved shootings or uses of deadly or excessive force. The legislation went into full effect on July 1, despite rules on how to conduct these investigations still being developed by the Criminal Justice Training Center.
Within 12 hours of the July incident, the family of the individual shot and killed by Poulsbo PD identified him as the 39-year-old father of five, Stonechild “Stoney” Chiefstick.
Chiefstick was a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe out of Montana but had ties to the Suquamish Tribe through his children.
Chiefstick also had a criminal history, having served time in jail for armed robbery in 2002.
Another piece of the newly enacted legislation dictates that if a Native American tribal member is involved in a police shooting, the governor must be notified and must contact the tribe to which the individual belonged. At the time of the incident, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was campaigning for President of the United States, his office has not responded to requests for comment on the incident.
A month after the investigation began, the identity of the officer who shot Chiefstick was revealed to be officer Craig Keller. Keller had been with Poulsbo Police Department for five years and had previously served on the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Police Department. According to the department he had served without incident. Since the July 3 incident Keller has been placed on paid administrative leave.
An early report of the investigation revealed that during the scuffle with Chiefstick, Keller’s body camera became dislodged.
Since the incident, there have been calls by the community to allow for increased community oversight of the investigation in addition to requests for additional training for police officers, ranging from de-escalation to anti-bias training.