Jefferson County Superior Court Prosecutor Juelie Dalzell says she won’t prosecute two Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal officers after the tribe admitted in a statement Tuesday that their men erred in the handling of an incident involving the detention of a hunter and others at gunpoint in Brinnon on Oct. 3, 2009.
“After conducting our own internal investigation, along with reviewing the reports provided by the Jefferson County Sheriff and State Fish and Wildlife, we have determined that, although our officers acted in good faith, they acted outside the scope of their authority,” Tribal Chairman Jeromy Sullivan, wrote in the statement.
Acknowledging that their officers erred when handling the incident, the tribe dismissed lead officer Capt. Gus Goller and Dalzell recommended that he be decommissioned as a law enforcement officer.
Decommissioning, Dalzell said, would make Goller ineligible to seek employment in the enforcement field with any agency in the state.
“I will send all the reports regarding the incident to the Board for their review,” Dalzell said in the joint statement Tuesday. “I am confident that they will take action.”
According to Dalzell, the assisting officer Dale Clark, was a reserve office and was following orders given by his superior Capt. Goller.
Dalzell said that bringing charges against Clark would “not serve the interests of justice.”
Dalzell’s decision not to prosecute came following a joint investigation with her office, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sullivan said the tribe conducted it’s own internal investigation.
In light of the findings, Sullivan said Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal leadership is conducting a full review of the natural resources enforcement department’s policies and procedures.
“This incident has made it apparent that we need to review the current guidelines set forth by Natural Resources Enforcement,” Sullivan said in the statement. “We will make changes to these procedures as necessary to make sure that laws are properly enforced and an incident like this does not reoccur.”
Statements from the tribal chairman and disciplinary action against Goller stem from an incident near Brennan Oct. 3, 2009, when Goller and Clark handcuffed and detained licensed hunter Don Phipps, 48, of Shelton, his son Danny Phipps, 22, Adam Boling, 28, and C.J. Schafer who helped load the elk into Phipps’ truck. Boling’s 2-year-old son Taylor, although not detained, was separated from his father during the incident.
The tribal officers accused Phipps of illegally shooting a bull elk across U.S. Highway 101 on the waterside flats across from the Bayshore Motel. The officers stopped Phipps and his hunting companions by yelling and brandishing a pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle before making the hunters lie prone on the ground and cuffing them. Goller and Clark detained the hunters for about two-hours.
A multi-agency investigation after the incident, indicated that Phipps did not break any hunting or shooting laws when he took the elk. He had a state hunting license, a special tag for taking an elk during the limited blackpowder muzzle-loading season, and he did it in an area of Jefferson County where shooting is allowed, according to state and county reports. In addition, the reports indicated Phipps did not trespass — as was initially thought — on private property. As of noon Wednesday, The Leader was unable to reach Phipps for comment.
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