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Prosecuting Attorney: Shooting of Thomas Black justified
SUQUAMISH — The shooting of Thomas Anthony Black on Dec. 8 was found justified by the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s review of the investigation. The pathologist found a high amount of methamphetamine in Black's system, which he reported as a contributing factor of his death.
Prosecutor Russell Hauge released his memorandum Feb. 3 after reviewing the Sheriff Department’s investigative report for nearly one month. Black, 44, was killed Dec. 8 when police attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Stacy Callihoo, 42, who was in the Black home. The warrant was issued by Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Court and being served by Port Gamble S’Klallam, Suquamish and Kitsap County Sheriff’s officers.
Hauge wrote that among the evidence presented to him was footage from body cameras worn by Suquamish officers. This evidence identified the officer in the lead position, Det. Greg Graves of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Police Department, as the officer that fired his service weapon at Black.
Hauge also concludes that Black “made the worst choice possible under the circumstances.”
“If Black had at that time raised both of his hands, he would have allayed the growing and reasonable fears of the officers,” according to Hauge’s report. “They were in a dark room in a house associated with drug dealing. They knew that a dangerous fugitive was somewhere inside. Their training and experience demanded that they assure themselves that the person before them presented no threat.
“But this person, aware of but ignoring their status as police officers, was giving clear signals that he was not going to respond rationally to the situation. It was quite possible that he had a firearm concealed under the blankets and pillows. If he was given the opportunity to use a concealed pistol, any of the officers could be injured or killed.”
Shortly after Hauge released his report, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe released a statement.
“We appreciate the thorough work of the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Kitsap County Sherriff’s Department during this investigation. While we’re saddened that this situation resulted in the loss of life, Detective Graves acted in accordance with his training to protect himself, his fellow officers, and the public during a difficult and stressful situation.”
Graves was placed on administrative leave immediately following the shooting, and he has been fully reinstated, according to Police Chief Carl Gilje, Sr. of the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe.
The pathologist determined the cause of death to be “gunshot wounds with acute methamphetamine intoxication as a contributing factor."
Black’s blood level at the time of his death was 0.44 milligrams of meth per liter — a very high amount, according to Wilson. Users of methamphetamine experience effects such as intensifying emotions, altering self-esteem, increasing alertness and aggression.
After Callihoo was taken into custody, the police searched the house and found marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, evidence of drug dealing, but no firearms.
Initial reports after the shooting occurred stated that officers were fired at inside the house, and later a toy gun was recovered from the residence. Sergeant Sanchez of the Suquamish Police Department reported “he saw Black point a silver-colored semi-automatic pistol at them and fire at least three shots,” according to the report. A search of the house after Callihoo was arrested found several silver-colored remote controls, and a plastic gun painted black.
“Sgt. Sanchez was obviously mistaken,” Hauge states in his report. “However, these facts are not relevant to the decision we face here. Det. Graves and the other officers who confronted Black had every reason to suspect that he posed a threat of serious physical harm.
“Whatever [Black] might have been thinking, there is no evidence that Black had access to any kind of firearm.”
Hauge said the prosecuting attorney's office was treating it just like any criminal investigation. “Deadly force was used, somebody lost their life. The first question we asked is whether a crime was committed,” he said.
In his 16-year career with the Kitsap County Prosecutors office, Hauge said he’s seen about 10 officer-related shooting investigations.
These investigations are “the one thing in the office that I make sure I’m involved in and take responsibility for from start to finish.”
Sheriff spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said, after an officer-related shooting, members of the public often ask about officer shooting methods. Graves shot five rounds, two of which hit and wounded Black.
"It is a long discussion to be able to explain the motor physics of an officer shooting," Wilson said. Officers are "instructed to stop the threat, however you need to do that.
"[Officers] have to be accountable for your bullets."
Callihoo, who is Port Gamble S’Klallam, was charged Dec. 23 for failure to appear in tribal court for a probation violation; he was on probation for indecent liberties and assault. He is now serving two years in Chehalis Tribal Jail.
PICTURED ABOVE: The actual 8-shot cap gun found in the residence where the shooting took place, altered and painted black. Contributed / Suquamish Police Department.