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‘He was my best friend’: Siblings cope with brother's death in Suquamish shooting

Tony Black, his nephew, Will, and dog Mee Mee, Christmas 1991.           - Black family photo
Tony Black, his nephew, Will, and dog Mee Mee, Christmas 1991.
— image credit: Black family photo

SUQUAMISH — From the outside, the compact home on Second Avenue is no different than its neighbors. But inside, the confusion and grief is palpable. In a small living room, there’s a couch, TV and day bed. Family pictures hang on the walls.

Silent reminders remain of the tragic incident: on one wall, halfway down, a cardboard square is taped over a gaping hole left by drywall cut out around a bullet hole. A black rug covers the lighter colored carpet, which is stained with blood.

Bags and boxes of Tony Black’s possessions wait to be thrown out or stored, while his sister, Sherri, attempts to put her home back together. A small artificial Christmas tree with flashing lights sits on the table near the sliding glass door. Sherri said she only set it up because it was a gift from Tony.

She misses him. “I would give anything to hear him snoring, and [his snoring] would drive me nuts,” Sherri said.

Tony died of bullet wounds in his sister’s house Dec. 8, after a confrontation with Suquamish, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Kitsap County Sheriff’s officers. The officers were there to serve a warrant on Stacy Callihoo, who was at the home visiting. Callihoo was wanted for violating his probation and failing to appear in Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Court.

The shooting is under investigation.

The Blacks grew up in Oregon. Tony was popular in school and good at sports. He liked cars, football and baseball, according to his siblings. Jim, the oldest brother, moved to Poulsbo over 20 years ago, and the rest of the family slowly followed him. Sherri moved into her rented home in Suquamish 12 years ago, and Tony moved in with her two years ago after the death of their mother.

The Blacks were once a family of five. They are now two.

Tony had been working as an independent maintenance man, previously with Wing Point Country Club on Bainbridge Island and recently with the Jewel Box Theater in Poulsbo. Sherri and Jim said Tony was soft-spoken, but was “very funny once he got to know you.”

“We’d grown a lot closer the older we got,” Sherri said. “He was one of my best friends, there was truly nothing he wouldn’t do for me. It was a nice, safe feeling.”

“He was very respectful person” about religion and authority, his brother Jim said. “He was the first person to say, ‘To get respect, you give respect.’ ”

‘I could have been there’

Sherri said she and her two brothers were in her home that day, but she and Jim had left at different times. When Sherri arrived back, Tony was in the living room with one of her dogs and Callihoo was in her bedroom. She said she had been telling Callihoo to turn himself in to the police for a while. She told him he couldn’t stay at her house “when we heard the knock on the door.”

Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier said police were observing Sherri’s home, looking for Callihoo.

Sherri answered the door to three officers around 2:50 p.m. She closed the door behind her to try to keep her dogs from escaping, and was escorted to a police car by a female officer who asked her who was in the house. Officers entered her house; next thing she heard was “pop-pop-pop.”

Initial reports stated officers were fired at first, but the Sheriff’s Department and Suquamish Police later said no gun was found at the residence and no one had fired at officers. Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said a black toy gun was found near Tony, and said Tony refused commands to keep his hands in site. Lasnier clarified in his own news release, “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.”

Sherri and Jim stressed that Tony did not own a weapon, even a toy replica, and would not have made threatening moves toward police officers.

“But that’s just flat out scary to me,” Jim said. “These are [police officers] out there, protecting and serving me? I could have been there, sitting on the couch.”

Wilson said officers were “in the process of serving the warrant” on Callihoo when the incident occurred, but was unable to comment on whether officers had in fact made contact with Callihoo inside the house prior to the shooting, pending the results of the investigation.

Tony was sitting on a daybed in the corner of the living room, according to Sherri — about 15 feet from the front sliding glass door. A bedroom door can be seen about 10 feet to the left of the door. Sherri said when she entered her home later that evening, there was blood on the day bed, the wall behind, and on the floor in front of the TV.

Sherri and Jim were told of their brother’s fate by other people. Jim said he was trying to get ahold of Sherri and Tony on their cell phones that afternoon, and a friend told him that evening a Thomas Black was shot. Sherri said, after being held in police cars and eventually the Suquamish fire station that day, she called a friend to pick her up. The friend told her Tony had been shot.

Sherri and Jim also said they are frustrated at the Sheriff’s Department for changing its story a week after the incident, and at Suquamish Police for “jumping the gun.” Why didn’t the police take Tony away from the house like Sherri, they wondered.

“He did nothing wrong ... he did not deserve to die,” Sherri said.

The family is raising money for Tony’s cremation and memorial. Sherri said she is moving back to Oregon as soon as the services are taken care of, and Jim will be moving in to Sherri’s home.

“The only way I’m going to move on is to move away,” she said.

 

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