Witness statements describe Chiefstick’s final moments

Recently released investigation materials outline the moments leading up to fatal July 3 shooting

The North Kitsap Herald has obtained over 400 pages of investigation materials related to the July 3 police shooting of Stonechild Chiefstick. While the records requested through the Freedom of Information Act continue to be disseminated, a clearer picture has begun to form, showing a timeline of Chiefstick’s movements and interactions throughout the day, leading up to the fatal shooting at a crowded waterfront park.

Investigators for the Kitsap County Incident Response Team collected evidence and interviewed over 100 witnesses of the incident, as well as statements from people that had interacted with Chiefstick earlier in the day, which included family members, law enforcement and first responders, hours before the shooting.

The information to follow comes directly from accounts collected by KCIRT investigators that have been turned over to the Kitsap County Prosecutor. A complete picture of the moments surrounding Chiefstick’s death may not yet be possible, as more information continues to be released by investigators.

According to investigation documents, surveillance footage showed Chiefstick arriving at the GameStop in Poulsbo around 10:20 a.m. on July 3, with his daughter and girlfriend. An employee at GameStop told investigators that she had been working that day and that Chiefstick and his daughter had been in the shop for about an hour. The employee also noted that she didn’t think Chiefstick was under the influence of intoxicants, but that something seemed “off” about him.

Additional surveillance footage shows Chiefstick and his family arriving at Walmart in Poulsbo around 11:20 a.m. While shopping, the pair reportedly ran into Chiefstick’s ex-wife, with whom he has children in common. An argument ensued between the two parties at the checkout line over money, according to one witness. Both women left in separate cars, leaving Chiefstick behind.

Following the argument, witnesses reported seeing Chiefstick wandering around the parking lot, attempting to open car doors. A Walmart employee stated that Chiefstick had approached her asking for a light for a cigarette, the employee described him as seeming agitated and “really angry.” She told investigators that he kept putting his hands up by his head, shaking them and yelling.

Another witness had called 911 at around 12:18 p.m. to report suspicious behavior. But by the time officers arrived, Chiefstick had left.

Chiefstick’s eldest daughter told investigators that she had picked him up from Walmart and dropped him off somewhere in Suquamish.

At about 2 p.m. Sgt. Darrell Duckett of the Suquamish Police Department reported seeing Chiefstick walking up the hill near the police department and was walking toward the bus stop at the Chevron gas station on Suquamish Way. Another officer, Sgt. Mark Brennan, also of the Suquamish Police Department noticed that Chiefstick was pacing on the grass in front of the gas station and appeared to be making another customer at the gas station nervous.

The officer reported that he had not seen Chiefstick for some time and that he appeared to have lost weight since their last encounter. In the past when Chiefstick was intoxicated, two or three officers would contact him due to his history of combative behavior, the officer noted.

Around the same time that the Suquamish officers noticed Chiefstick, Jesse Ramos, a firefighter with North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, saw him (reports from Ramos are conflicting as to what time he saw Chiefstick; Ramos reported seeing Chiefstick at either 2:30 or 4:30 p.m.) while refueling a firetruck at the gas station. The firefighter said he noticed Chiefstick drinking from a beer can in the road near the bus stop.

According to Ramos, Chiefstick eventually moved closer, making statements such as, “smile at me and see what happens,” and “we all bleed the same.” Hoping to avoid any conflict, the firefighter attempted to de-escalate the situation by stating that he hadn’t meant to offend Chiefstick. Chiefstick eventually backed down and ultimately shook the firefighter’s hand.

According to investigation reports, following the interaction at the gas station, Chiefstick made his way to the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort where he ran into a friend and was able to get a ride to the Red Apple Market in Poulsbo, although the casino had no video of Chiefstick entering the premises.

The friend said it was his impression that Chiefstick was going to be picked up at the market by his girlfriend.

Another report given to investigators states that surveillance footage from the Kitsap Transit Center reportedly shows Chiefstick exiting a vehicle and walking off into the woods at 5:45 p.m. At 6:55 p.m. Chiefstick is seen walking down Viking Avenue away from the transit center. Somewhere along the way Chiefstick’s stepson, Ohitika Taken Alive, reportedly picked Chiefstick up and took him to a party at Nelson Park and then to the waterfront.

Investigators interviewed Chiefstick’s stepson, over the phone on July 4.

Taken Alive told investigators that he saw his stepfather at the AmPm and pulled over to offer him a ride. Chiefstick got in his vehicle and they went to a party for a family member’s birthday party at Nelson Park. Afterward, Taken Alive reportedly dropped Chiefstick off at the waterfront and gave him $2.25 to purchase scratch-off lottery tickets.

Investigators asked Taken Alive if Chiefstick had seemed “off” at all during their interaction.

“I can always tell when he’s been drinking,” the stepson told investigators. “When I picked him up, he was smiling. He was pretty happy to see us and we got to the park and I didn’t notice anything off about him.”

Taken Alive noted there was no alcohol present at the party, but that there had been some other persons nearby who he described as “drug addicts” encroaching on the party space at the park.

The stepson did say to investigators that when Chiefstick does drink, his attitude changes significantly. He also added that he had never known his stepfather to use drugs other than marijuana.

“[When he drinks] he gets really sad or hates himself,” he said.

According to family, Chiefstick had been struggling with depression and alcohol abuse following the death of his close friend, Jeana Rogers, while she was in the custody of the Kitsap County Jail in February.

After the party at Nelson Park, Taken Alive reportedly dropped Chiefstick off at the Poulsbo waterfront. According to documents, Chiefstick told Taken Alive that he wanted to watch the fireworks with his youngest daughter who was reportedly there with her mother and maternal grandparents.

Witnesses at Poulsbo’s Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park described Chiefstick’s behavior as creepy and invasive, with some stating that he had appeared to be “tweaking” or “on something.”

Multiple witnesses at the scene described watching Chiefstick going through people’s purses, bags and strollers.

“He’d bend down and like look at people’s blankets and like through their bags,” one witness told investigators. “[My wife’s friend] came over and said, ’ Hey, um this guy just said that-, he told two little kids that he was gonna stab them with a screwdriver.’”

Multiple other witnesses described Chiefstick as fixating on individuals and staring them down or following them, particularly children.

The Poulsbo Police Department had multiple officers in the vicinity of the park for security purposes. According to reports, officers were first made aware of Chiefstick’s erratic behavior when an organizer for the event contacted Mayor Becky Erickson who spoke to an officer at the venue’s location.

Mayor Erickson said she had known the event organizer for many years and considered him a “world-wise man.” Erickson also noted that she had never seen him so shaken before. Shortly after informing officers, Mayor Erickson left the festivities, reportedly telling officers and later investigators that she makes a point of not witnessing police interactions, adding that she believed it to be inappropriate given her position within the city.

One Poulsbo officer, Michael Miulli, made initial contact with Chiefstick and noted he could smell alcohol on him and that Chiefstick was on his phone throughout the interaction.

Officer Miulli made the second contact with Chiefstick at the request of Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker who had been receiving increasing reports about Chiefstick’s behavior. During this contact, Chiefstick denied that he had been intimidating people, gave the officers a fist bump and then walked away to smoke a cigarette.

Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker noted in his report that while he was standing there, Chiefstick was staring down officers. When Schoonmaker spoke to him, Chiefstick mumbled something inaudible and then walked off.

Sometime between that interaction and actions that ultimately led to his death, Chiefstick had reportedly threatened at least three persons at the park with a screwdriver.

One witness said that they had been talking to a friend when Chiefstick asked them what they were talking about, as if he had been part of the conversation. The individual asked Chiefstick if they could help him, at which point Chiefstick reportedly drew the screwdriver and aggressively asked again what they were talking about while pacing back and forth in front of them.

Another witness at the scene reported Chiefstick’s behavior to Nicolas San Gil, a nearby community services officer who then contacted Officer Craig Keller — the officer who would ultimately fire the shots which killed Chiefstick.

As they moved toward Chiefstick’s location, San Gil noted that Chiefstick seemed to have a “thousand-yard stare.”

Keller closed in on Chiefstick and grabbed him by the left arm while San Gill grabbed him on the right in an attempt to arrest him. According to San Gil, Chiefstick pulled away and drew the screwdriver as more officers approached the scene. During the struggle, Keller lost his body camera, which was still recording when it was later recovered at the scene.

Investigation documents noted that the Poulsbo Police Department uses the Axon Body 2 cameras which come with two types of mounts: a magnetic mount and a clip mount. Keller routinely wore the magnetic mount. Initially, Chief Schoonmaker told KCIRT detectives he was unaware of any documented instances of body cameras falling off during a struggle but that he was still researching and stated he would get back to investigators about his findings. On July 30, Schoonmaker alerted detectives that he had found a review of a use of force incident in which a body camera had been lost during a struggle. Coincidentally the 2018 case also involved Officer Keller.

Documents say both officers yelled directives to Chiefstick, ordering him to get on the ground and drop the screwdriver. San Gil reported that he drew his taser while Keller drew his firearm. The officer explained in the investigation documents that he would have drawn his firearm as well, had Keller not already been providing lethal cover. Multiple witnesses reported hearing the directives shouted by the officer and then subsequently hearing shots fired.

According to investigation documents, Chiefstick lunged at Keller with the screwdriver in-hand. Keller fired two shots striking Chiefstick in the face and chest.

After firing his weapon Keller alerted nearby law enforcement units that he was dealing with a non-compliant individual and that shots had been fired.

Multiple law enforcement agencies and first responders arrived at the scene in order to secure it and provide medical aid to Chiefstick.

When paramedics arrived to transport Chiefstick to Raab Park for an airlift to Harborview Medical Center, it was noted that there were no exit wounds observed on his body. By the time a helicopter had landed at Raab Park, paramedics pronounced Chiefstick dead at 10:04 p.m.

Back at the scene, the area surrounding the shooting had been secured and evidence and witness statements were being collected.

Keller’s body camera had been recovered and according to investigation documents, in the interest of preserving what was already on the camera before the battery died, the recording was paused. Sgt. Howard Leeming of the Poulsbo Police Department advised the KCIRT detectives who recovered the camera to not use the docking station to download the footage as sometimes, in very rare cases system updates can disrupt the download process and cause a malfunction.

Poulsbo Police Officer Valerie Nau, noted immediately following the shooting that Keller was pacing in circles and struggling to breathe. The officer then escorted Keller away from the scene and eventually up to the Poulsbo Police Department headquarters. A short time after arriving at the department, Keller’s union representative and three other officers that had witnessed the incident arrived. The officers were all advised not to speak of the incident until the initial investigation was cleared.

On Oct. 16 KCIRT turned over investigation materials to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office for determination on whether to file criminal charges against Keller. After the case was handed over, officials with the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office stated that they expected a determination to be made within 60 days.

Keller will remain on paid administrative leave until a determination has been made by the Kitsap County Prosecutor. After determination by the prosecutor, a separate investigation and review will be conducted by an independent organization for the Poulsbo Police Department, in order to determine whether Keller followed department procedure in his handling of the incident.

<em>The waterfront park in Poulsbo was transformed into a crime scene on the night of July 3.					</em>Photo courtesy of KCIRT

The waterfront park in Poulsbo was transformed into a crime scene on the night of July 3. Photo courtesy of KCIRT

<em>According to investigation materials, Chiefstick lunged at one of the officers while holding a screwdriver before the officer opened fire. </em>Photo courtesy of KCIRT

According to investigation materials, Chiefstick lunged at one of the officers while holding a screwdriver before the officer opened fire. Photo courtesy of KCIRT

Chiefstick always wore his hat just a little off to the side and was an identifying factor for the police at the July 3 festivities. (photo courtesy of KCIRT)

Chiefstick always wore his hat just a little off to the side and was an identifying factor for the police at the July 3 festivities. (photo courtesy of KCIRT)

Chiefstick always wore his hat just a little off to the side and was an identifying factor for the police at the July 3 festivities. (photo courtesy of KCIRT)

Chiefstick always wore his hat just a little off to the side and was an identifying factor for the police at the July 3 festivities. (photo courtesy of KCIRT)

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