Like many others in North Kitsap, I was horrified when our community became the latest place to see a person of color shot dead by a police officer, when loss of life seemed easily preventable. Stonechild Chiefstick was armed only with a small screwdriver when he was shot in the face by a Poulsbo police officer in a large crowd at the July 3 fireworks show. A Taser was not deployed, nor was he taken down in any number of possible non-violent ways, in spite of the danger of firing a gun in such a crowd.
In the Kitsap Daily News article, “Witness statements describe Chiefstick’s final moments,” published Oct. 31, the process of “blaming the victim” has begun. Rather than tracing Chiefstick’s every movement and mood during the day of his death, why not spend some time investigating why the de-escalation training passed last November did not give our police personnel better tools for dealing with a troubled individual than a shot to the face. Printing an article filled with unsubstantiated and subjective comments, such as “Witnesses … described Chiefstick’s behavior as creepy and invasive … or ‘on something,’” feeds racist stereotypes and really offers nothing to suggest how we as a community can bring justice to this terrible tragedy and prevent anything like it from occurring again.
What is needed — and mandated by the recent legislation — is a truly multi-faceted investigation into this shooting, not just by the police who may identify with the shooter, but by a diverse group of citizens, including tribal members, who have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that face indigenous people when they are confronted by the legal system. Please turn the spotlight on deadly law enforcement practices rather than searching the victim’s life and behavior for an excuse for his death.