Family of Stonechild Chiefstick files civil rights lawsuit in police shooting
Family members of an Indigenous man killed by Poulsbo police at a festival in 2019 say they are still seeking accountability for his death. On Thursday they filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, and asked Gov. Jay Inslee to reopen a potential criminal case against the police officer.
Stonechild Chiefstick was a resident of Suquamish, a member of the Chippewa Cree tribe, and a father of six. He was shot by Poulsbo police officer Craig Keller on July 3, 2019 after reportedly threatening someone with a screwdriver during a waterfront fireworks show. But at a press conference Thursday in Suquamish, the family’s attorney Gabe Galanda said other police officers had friendly encounters with Chiefstick that night, and the full story of why he died has not been explained.
Galanda has filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District court in Tacoma that alleges Chiefstick was subjected to excessive force and brutality. The suit includes wrongful-death claims under Washington state law for negligence and assault and battery. It asserts that Poulsbo, Officer Keller, and Keller’s supervisors breached their duties of care. It also includes a demand for a jury trial.
Suquamish tribal members including Chiefstick’s former fiancée Trishandra Pickup also want the criminal case against the police officer reopened. They’ve asked Gov. Inslee to refer it to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for review. Pickup thanked other members of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability for their support after her partner's death. She joined in the coalition's efforts seeking several pieces of police accountability legislation last spring.
Poulsbo Police Chief Ronald Harding said Thursday, "the City has not been served with the suit so we have no comment to provide yet."