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News Release

Galanda Broadman PLLC

The family of Stonechild Chiefstick gathered at the House of Awakened Culture at Noon yesterday to mark an important step in its fight to hold the City of Poulsbo, Officer Craig Keller, and Keller’s supervisors accountable for the death of their beloved family member.

Yesterday morning a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Chiefstick was subjected to excessive force and brutality, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and 42 USC § 1983.

In addition, the lawsuit includes wrongful death claims under Washington State law for negligence, assault and battery. The state claims assert that Poulsbo, Officer Keller, and Keller’s supervisors breached their duties of care. The filing includes a demand for a jury trial.

Pictured: Stonechild Chiefstick, Chippewa Cree.

Pictured: Stonechild Chiefstick, Chippewa Cree.

Stonechild Chiefstick was killed two years ago at a Poulsbo waterfront park as several hundred people gathered to watch a July 3rd fireworks display. Mr. Chiefstick was a long-time resident of Suquamish and a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation, Montana. He was 39 years old when he was killed by Officer Keller. He left behind six children, a large extended family, and many friends.

As part of the announcement, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman offered support for the family and for the community. Suquamish’s Tribal Council is on record that the use of deadly force should have been avoided, de-escalation methods should have been used, and the encounter should have ended peacefully.

Trishandra Pickup, a Suquamish Tribal member, lifelong resident, and mother to four of Stonechild’s children, spoke to the impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples and said that the lawsuit is not the justice the family seeks but is what is available to them now: “The death of my children’s father is added to the deaths of the thousands of kin who died when settlers and soldiers came to the Salish Sea. We must keep fighting to be free from this violence.”

Pictured: Stonechild Chiefstick, Chippewa Cree, with his son.

Pictured: Stonechild Chiefstick, Chippewa Cree, with his son.

Mr. Chiefstick’s family is represented by Galanda Broadman PLLC, whose Indigenous clients include the families of Renee Davis (Muckleshoot), Cecil Lacy Jr (Tulalip), and Daniel Covarrubias (Suquamish), all killed at the hands of law enforcement in Western Washington.

“Craig Keller and the Poulsbo police will be held accountable. The consequences of that accountability will have ripple effects and result in the next human life being saved rather than taken at the hands of law enforcement,” said Gabriel S. Galanda.

The lawsuit is just one of many justice-seeking efforts being pursued by the family of Mr. Chiefstick. Ms. Pickup is a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA), which played a major role in the passage of police accountability legislation this year at the state legislature. Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s mission is to reduce police violence and increase accountability. Leslie Cushman, a Washington Coalition for Police Accountability member and the Citizen Sponsor of I-940, spoke at today’s press conference.

Ms. Cushman recited statistics on police violence targeting Native people and noted that part of Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s work this past legislative session was to get impacted families and community at the table for policy making. According to Ms. Cushman, a tribal member will be part of the new statewide office established for independent criminal investigations of police use of deadly force. 

“Policy decisions made without impacted community at the table, are incomplete and fall short,” Ms. Cushman said. “This new office will be stronger with a tribal person on the new advisory board. Family members are experts and their lived experience needs to be respected.”

Separately, Mr. Chiefstick’s family is asking that the criminal case against Officer Keller be reopened.

The request is being considered by Governor Jay Inslee, who has been asked by Chairman Forsman to refer the case to Attorney General Bob Ferguson. At a meeting with Governor’s Attorney Kathryn Leathers, Ms. Pickup and Ms. Cushman requested that the Governor refer the case to Attorney General Ferguson, citing the inadequate investigation done by the Kitsap Critical Incident Review Team, and the unnecessary use of force and failure to use de-escalation methods and tactics. Mr. Galanda has been in communication with Governor Inslee as well.

The new Office of Independent Investigations is authorized to review existing cases but not until July 1, 2023. The family believes that further delay aggravates the trauma to the family and community.

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