Investigators: Suquamish man did not fire at police
December 15, 2011 · Updated 12:50 PM
SUQUAMISH — Investigators say there is no evidence Thomas Anthony Black fired a gun at officers Dec. 8, and no firearm was located near his body, according to an update of the investigation issued Wednesday by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
Black, 44, is believed to have been shot by police who went to Black’s home to arrest another man there, Stacy Callihoo, on a probation violation warrant issued by Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Court.
“Initial information disseminated following the incident indicated that the officers believed that shots were fired at them inside the residence, as they were in the process of attempting to serve an arrest warrant” on Callihoo, the investigation update states.
“Sheriff’s detectives processed the scene later that evening. This included a thorough search of the residence. While evidence was collected consistent with the officers’ recollection, no actual firearm was located, nor any evidence that Black had fired a gun at officers as reported previously.
Sheriff spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson told the Herald it's not clear at this point who fired a weapon first.
“Detectives did find a black-colored toy handgun located in close proximity to where Thomas Black was positioned at the time of the shooting.”
Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier clarified in his own news release Thursday, "Law enforcement officers cannot hesitate when a subject suddenly produces a firearm, or assume it’s a toy."
"When a subject in a dark room full of police officers refuses multiple commands to show their hands, and then suddenly reaches and swings up with what appears to be a gun, any sane person knows how the officers are going to react," he continued. "I am confident that a full, exhaustive review of this matter at every level will find that the officers reacted the only way they could when placed in horrible circumstances, and were forced to make a split second decision under circumstances that were tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving."
Sheriff’s detectives are continuing their investigation to present a complete case file to the county prosecuting attorney for review. Details emerging from the investigation vary from the original accounts — that Port Gamble S’Klallam, Suquamish and sheriff’s officers were in the process of making the warrant arrest, Black drew a concealed handgun and fired at officers, officers fired back and then retreated out of the house.
Lasnier also said all Suquamish Police officers are issued body cameras, which will be reviewed by the investigators.
The original report also stated officers took a 43-year-old woman out of the house for her safety.
“When officers arrived at the house, the woman answered their knock at the sliding glass door,” the latest report states. “She stepped out onto the porch and slid the door closed behind her (ostensibly to prevent pet dogs from getting out). She was directed up the driveway towards other officers. When shots were fired, an officer escorted the woman further from the house, out of harm’s way.”
The woman, Sherri Black, was Black's sister. She said in an interview Wednesday she remembered officers taking her outside her home and asking who was inside. She heard someone say Callihoo's name.
"The next thing I knew there were gunshots," she said.
"I'm still kind of taking it all in," she said. Sherri said she believes if Callihoo had surrendered sooner, her brother could have received medical help.
"This would never have happened if Stacy weren't at my house … I told him he needed to leave and turn himself in many, many times," she said.
After shots were fired, officers from several law enforcement agencies, the sheriff’s SWAT team and a crisis negotiator were called to the scene. Callihoo surrendered about two hours later. SWAT officers and medics then entered the house and found Black dead in the living room, Wilson said.
Black was not a subject of the warrant served on Callihoo. But according to Kitsap County District Court, there were two warrants out for Black’s arrest: One issued by Poulsbo Municipal Court on a charge of being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence; and one issued by District Court on a charge of DUI. Those cases dated to August and October 2010. Total bail was $35,000.
Callihoo, 42, was sought on a warrant issued by Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Court for failure to appear on a probation violation; he was on probation for indecent liberties and assault. He is also charged with second-degree malicious mischief.
Later on Dec. 9, Suquamish Police filed charges against Callihoo for felony possession of a firearm, first-degree rendering criminal assistance, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, obstructing a law enforcement officer, and refusing to aid an officer. Those charges are related to the incident on Dec. 8.
Callihoo was scheduled to appear in Suquamish Tribal Court Dec. 12 at 8 a.m. He will appear in Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Court Dec. 21, 9:15 a.m., according to a copy of the arrest warrant. He is being held without bail in county jail; Port Gamble S'Klallam and Suquamish contract with the county for jail services.
Three Suquamish officers involved in the incident are on administrative leave and have access to concealing, according to Lasiner. He said there were officer injuries stemming from the Dec. 8 incident, but could not elaborate.
Shooting victim 'was a fabulous man'
Gary McVey, former board president of the Jewel Box Theatre now living in Minneapolis, has been following the story about the shooting. Black did custodial work for the theater as an independent contractor.
“Tony Black was a fabulous man,” McVey said. “He was always very responsible, very dependable and I always thought he had a good heart. So when I read about the incidents involving the shooting, knowing Tony, it seemed very out of character. I am truly saddened to hear about the incident and I hope that in the end, the truth will come out regarding what happened.”
As the theater’s sole custodian, Black was responsible for the upkeep of a 4,000-square-foot theater that was a venue for more than 100 events a year. He did the work in 10 to 20 hours a week, McVey said. “He did terrific work for us,” McVey said. “He was a good worker, a hard worker … He took great pride in his work.”
Cindy Garfein, current president of the Jewel Box Theatre board, also fondly remembered Black.
“He was a very sweet guy, very low key,” she said. “After his father died, he took care of his mother. After his mother died, he went to live with his sister.
“He came and went in the theater. He had a key to the theater and we were never concerned about security. Everybody liked him. He was a very sensitive, sweet guy who unfortunately, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”