The Killing of Stonechild Chiefstick is a 7-episode series about the shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick, the search for justice, the effects on the community of Poulsbo, WA and the Suquamish Tribe. Documents from the investigation, city council meetings, social media, and interviews from witnesses and community members come together to tell the story of how a big event can shape a small town.
Episode 7 - Justice
The final episode of this series documents the use of force policy report considered by the Poulsbo Police Chief when he would make a determination on policy violations resulting from the incident on July 3, 2019.
Episode 6 - Perspectives
Since the day of the shooting there’s been a single version of the events of July 3rd, 2019. The prosecutor, in making his decision, relied mostly on witness statements. There are problems with that methodology. What story does the empirical evidence tell?
Episode 5 - The Decision
Nine months after the shooting, the prosecutor releases his decision on whether Officer Keller was justified in shooting Stonechild Chiefstick.
Episode 4 - Collision Course
How did these men come together on this fateful day? What in their histories brought them to be in the grassy area by the big rock on July 3rd, 2019. This episode gives us a glimpse into the backgrounds of the two men driving this story.
Episode 3 - The Playbook
Moments after the shooting, law enforcement from multiple agencies began insulating Officer Keller from culpability. In the days after, law enforcement engineered press releases to smear the victim of this crime. Meanwhile, the Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team undertook an independent investigation—an effort designed to clear Poulsbo PD Officer Craig Keller of murder.
Episode 2 - Community Response
Poulsbo, at this moment, is a microcosm of what is happening across the US. A race of people believes they are being treated poorly and are the victims of race-based violence. City officials meet them with denial. Constituents are voicing their concerns and instead of listening, officials are pointing fingers back at their accusers.
I also was in Poulsbo for the fireworks show. I remember being nervous because there had just been a shooter in Gilroy a few weeks before. I saw our local police with their command post and they seemed amped up. When the shooting happened, rumor went out that there was an active shooter but the police had got him. Our kids had fled and sheltered with a friend. We were all safe. The fireworks show went on. The mayor reportedly made that decision. We were conscripted into a proud moment of defiance against those who would attack us with senseless violence. People thanked the then-unknown heroic officer. (I wonder how much wanting to be that hero contributed to this?)
It was all false. Every time I think about it, I am disgusted and sickened. The official excuses just made everything worse. There is video. You can see that the police already had prior contact with Stonechild. They knew he was maybe a little out if it, but he was not threatening anyone and was easily managed peacefully. The video, the witness statements that are credible (i.e. the ones that match the video), the obvious mismatch between the officer’s account and the provable facts, the prior contact, and maybe most of all, the fact that hundreds of people right there didn't know anything was happening - because nothing was happening, Stonechild was not a threat -until police rushed in and shot a guy dead, then cuffed him and pushed people away while he bled out... all these show the obvious truth of an unjustified killing. The DA and police chief reports are an insult. Saying the sun didn’t rise doesn’t convince anyone who can see it up in the sky. Conscripting us into that fireworks show is a moral stain. The town is poisoned.
Now, Poulsbo is stuck with a police department people don’t dare call in an emergency, unless they are prepared to be complicit in murder. Are you going to take the chance that when you call about some person in your bushes, this officer is going to show up and shoot your neighbor’s kid dead? God help us. (I suppose the result is that Poulsbo PD is due for defunding. Why pay for a police force that people don’t dare call for help?)
Thank you for this podcast. You can feel pretty alone in Poulsbo about this incident. People don't want to talk about it, some seem afraid to talk about it, many want to justify it or just sweep it under the rug and say “oh, I’m no expert, the authorities concluded he did the right thing. Terrible tragedy.” You hear worse stuff said. This podcast helps us all know there are lots of others who see what really happened.
I learned quite a few new things listening to the podcast. Overall, it is so thorough, calm, factual, that it is compelling. There is truth here. I hope teachers in Kitsap and elsewhere use it in their curriculum, to teach about how untruths are generated when people - authorities - desperately want to justify the unjustifiable. The authorities have failed, but maybe this podcast, the songs written, the memorials and the quiet and amazing dignity of Stonechild’s family and friends and all the many people who do care even in this devastating grief, will help us be better. Thank you.
Thank you for this insightful and thoughtful project. Everyone in Kitsap County, and Poulsbo specifically, needs to listen to this.
Amazingly informative and insightful
This podcast is a great primer on police misconduct and why we should always ask questions and dig deeper when there are officer involved shootings. Thank for this very thorough and thoughtful work.